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Robert Kelgor Johnson

May 4, 2019

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Robert Kelgor Johnson, 89, of Westminster-Canterbury, passed away on Saturday, May 4, 2019 surrounded by family, after a brief battle with lung cancer. He was born in Ashland, Kentucky, on April 26, 1930, the son of George and Catherine Johnson. Bob grew up in Kentucky, Iowa, and Tuscaloosa, Alabama, graduating from the University of Alabama in 1951 with a BS in Electrical Engineering. While at the University of Alabama, Bob was a member of Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity.

Called away from General Electric early in his career, he spent two years in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War. While on active duty in 1952, Bob married Jane Russell, his high school girlfriend. A decade in the Air Force Reserve as a Captain followed as he built his career with General Electric, where he remained for nearly 40 years, with assignments in various manufacturing positions in Lynn, MA, Schenectady, NY, Anniston, AL, Augusta, GA, Gainesville, FL, Lynchburg, VA and Raleigh NC. While living in Lynchburg, he and Jane built a home in Wintergreen Resort in Nelson County, moving there in 1978, where they lived for many years before returning to Lynchburg.

The Wintergreen house became the backbone of family relationships, lessons learned, and traditions established that spanned four generations. Wintergreen Christmases with food, carols, skiing, foosball and card games were legendary. These traditions will be carried on by Bob’s nine grandchildren into future generations – what a legacy!

Wintergreen Ski Resort was also the site of a late-blooming love of skiing. Learning to ski in Wintergreen at the age of 50, Bob also skied in West Virginia, Colorado, and the Swiss Alps. In addition, he served on the Wintergreen Rescue Squad. Fishing was a long-standing hobby. He could spend hours in his homemade canoe enjoying the quiet of the lake, casting his line and hoping for a nibble or a pull. On one expedition just a few years ago, he caught a 3 pounder (yes, we have photo evidence!).

Bob and Jane traveled extensively – barge cruises in France, off to see the glow worms in New Zealand, Norway, Greece, river cruises in the US. For their 50th wedding anniversary, they took their grown children and spouses on a wine tasting tour of Tuscany, altering briefly Bob’s affinity for boxed wine. Family trips growing up were often car trips – watching a space shuttle launch, visiting cousins in Iowa, and a true adventure to the Arctic Circle town of Moosonee.

A lifelong member of the Presbyterian Church, Bob served as an elder, choir member, and as clerk of session at Rockfish Presbyterian Church in Nellysford, VA and Quaker Memorial Presbyterian in Lynchburg. At various times he was active in the Rotary Club, serving as president of the Research Triangle Park club, and becoming a Paul Harris Fellow while in that club. He was also an avid life-long ham radio operator (W4MKO) building his own radio at the age of 15 and another one at the age of 86.

Friends and acquaintances will remember Bob for his energy, positive attitude and can do spirit. He had every tool in the book and used them often as he tackled chore lists for loved ones. When downsizing into Westminster Canterbury, he left his beloved basement tool world, but opened it up to each of his children and grandchildren to ‘shop’ as they built their own tool collections. During last year’s tornado in which Westminster Canterbury lost power, Bob went up and down the hallway checking on neighbors and offering flashlights.

Bob was a bread baker, honing his sandwich bread recipe and making it weekly. Baking scones, dinner rolls, ciabatta bread and yeast breads brought him (and those of us who ate them) such pleasure.

Music was a love of Bob’s life. He sang bass in choirs in every church to which they belonged. A special favorite was the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah; before Easter he could be found practicing in the garage, the car, anywhere he could sing. Listening favorites were Beethoven, Mozart and Vivaldi. His car radio often alternated between symphonic music and Car Talk on NPR.

Bob was predeceased by son, Russell and is survived by his beloved wife of 67 years, Jane, sister Carolyn Johnson (Jim) Odom, children Elizabeth J. (Louis) Berdoll, Steven C. (Susan E.) Johnson, and William T. (Elaine B.) Johnson. Grandchildren Russell (Sarah) Jackson, Jeffrey (Lauren) Jackson, Chase Johnson, Victoria (Glenn) Gray, Christa (Dan) Perkins, Curtis Johnson, and Ryan (Ginger) Johnson, Tayler (Holly) Johnson and Anna Marie Johnson also survived him. In addition, six great-grandchildren (with one on the way) have survived him.

The family is so very grateful to the loving, caring staff at Westminster Canterbury, in particular the nursing staff on the 6th floor Hearthside wing and Senior Independence Hospice, who have supported the family during this time, and to the many friends and acquaintances who have visited, sent cards and notes, and called.

A memorial service celebrating the life of Robert Kelgor Johnson will be conducted at Quaker Memorial Presbyterian Church on Friday, August 2, 2019 at 3:00 PM. The family will receive friends following the service in the church fellowship hall.

In lieu of flowers, please consider memorial contributions to the Westminster Canterbury Fellowship Fund or the American Lung Association.

Tharp Funeral Home & Crematory, Lynchburg, is assisting the family.

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