Memories of Jon Johnson

Jon Johnson

1947 - 1995


Jon Johnson was my best friend. Interestingly, at the same time he was probably a best friend to "Homer," "The Craw," "The Heads," Ronnie and Patsy, and Ken and Linda. Jon's selflessness, patience and devotion to his friends made him truly special to all of us.

I met Jon when we were assigned the same locker. Through high school we were cordial, but shared little else. Our names brought us together again at freshman orientation. It was then we shared our first moment. I was convinced we should register as engineering majors. Jon thought otherwise. The next semester, I join Jon in the business school as an econ major.

Jon was an invaluable asset the rest of the way. In addition to helping me understand the subject, he also showed Homer and me how weeks of studying could be condensed into the 24 wide awake hours before the exam and be hyper alert while taking the test. In the same vein, Jon showed me how to fully appreciate the music of the day, starting one night with the Beatles "Abbey Road" album. Before leaving the education period, let me say this about Jon. He was a very bright guy. Jon got graduate degrees in econ and computer sciences. His being hired by the prestigious Brookings Institute upon completion of his graduate work gives you a sense of his intelligence. Yet, Jon was so low key and modest you would never know he was near genius.

Let me share with you a series of related stories to give you a sense of how Jon impacted my life and why I miss him so. Jon, Phil "Homer" Holmes and I agreed to be roommates our senior year at Maryland. We were so excited. We got this "cool pad" at Berwyn Towers just off campus. Berwyn Towers was a prestigious address in those days. Of course, none of us had any money and we had to furnish this large cool pad. So we went to our parents' houses and rounded up all the unwanted furniture to decorate the pad. Well, we clearly underestimated the time required to load the stuff from the three homes into the U-Haul. Berwyn Heights didn't allow moving in after 6pm. We were rolling in about 9pm! The three of us were riding high in the car with the help of a couple of 6 packs. We laughed the whole way from Camp Springs to College Park. We talked about driving to San Francisco that summer after we graduated. Keep in mind, this was the fall of 1968, right after the summer of love. The three of us in San Francisco; hell the furthest west I had been by then was West Virginia. Anyway, we arrive in this big old U-Haul in the dark, against the rules. We quietly pull the truck up to the front door which had this canopy over it...like I said this was a prestigious place. Only slightly affected by the beers and approaching very quietly, we were finally there. As we pulled the truck under the canopy, this incredibly loud crashing noise surrounds us. Glass is falling everywhere...what the hell. Our stealth arrival was blown. Lights went on all over the complex, residents running out on their balconies to see what in the world had happened. It seems we had knocked out all the lighting hanging from the canopy.

A month later I had to tell Jon and Homer that I was getting married, and my wife and I are going to have to live at the cool bachelor pad for awhile. No problem. After a hastily arranged marriage and honeymoon, I'm on my way back to the"pad" with my wife and new roommate, and I'm nagged by one thought. The bed. You see, I had this old bed that kept breaking. It had finally broken to the point where I didn't know how it could possibly be fixed. So here I am, coming home to my roommates who can't be too happy about how I've changed the dynamics of the "pad" with my new bride, and she doesn't know the bed is broken, the mattress is on the floor and it's late and we are tired from the honeymoon and flight back from Miami.

I timidly open the door, and Jon's smiling face is there to greet us. I'm feeling better because Jon is truly a good friend and makes both of us feel more at ease. I'm feeling better about how she is going to take the bed situation. Into the bedroom we go, and to my truly total surprise the bed is fixed and is sturdier then ever. Jon, who I had never known to this point to ever have had a girlfriend, knew how important it was to have that old bed up off the floor. I could never tell Jon adequately how much I appreciated that act of kindness. The whole situation could have gone in another direction if not for Jon's understanding and kindness.

That summer Jon went to San Francisco by himself in an old broken down VW. The stories of the adventure across country and back plus the three months he spent in San Francisco were inspiring. Jon was a trustworthy storyteller. I would beg him to tell me more.

Years later, I made the trip to san francisco too. I've lived in the bay area since 1977, thank you Jon. I'm sure Jon is missed terribly by his wife and children. His friendship and guidance had a tremendous effect on my life as I'm sure he had on his family's.

Jay James


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