Meet Donald E. Johnson

Philanthropist and Humanitarian
1905 - 2016

Baby boomers may get all the attention and millennials may be up-and-comers, but the "Greatest Generation" earned that reputation for a reason. When the bombing of Pearl Harbor triggered America’s entrance into World War II, young men rose to the occasion and enlisted in scores. They set the standard for patriotism and for defending democracy. Don Johnson was among them. 

The 94-year old grew up in Minneapolis, but after volunteering to join the Marines, he was sent to San Diego. The proximity to the ocean allowed Don to indulge his love of boating, acquired over many summers spent sailing Lake Calhoun near his home. It was a hobby that would define a large part of his adult life. During his four years of active duty, Don met and married his first wife, Patricia. He joined her family’s highly successful lumber business after his military service and moved to Long Beach shortly afterward. 

"We loved boating," says Don, who joined the Long Beach Yacht Club (LBYC) in 1960. He is currently one of the ten oldest-living members of the club, and his membership in LBYC exceeds 50 years. Don filled a variety of volunteer roles at the club over the years, such as Chairman of the Race Committee and of the Protest Committee, which set the club’s rules for sailing. Among his prized mementos are photos of Ted Roosevelt’s cousin, Julian, an Olympic gold medalist,and Ted Turner winning the Congressional Cup in 1977. 

When Patricia fell ill in 1986 with a pulmonary condition, Don visited her every day at St. Mary Medical Center. "I was very grateful for the wonderful care she received," he says. During his frequent visits, Don became acquainted with the St. Mary staff. He made a donation in Patricia’s memory following her passing and soon became an active supporter of St. Mary. 

Don eventually married his second wife, Ginny, whom he had known since before he met his first wife. Together, they embarked on expansive adventures over the 27 years of their marriage. As enthusiastic fans of Airstream trailers, they travelled over 300,000 miles throughout the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Northwest Territory. Don served as Region President of the Airstream Club. They also circled the globe two-and-a-half times over 50 cruises.Throughout his travels and to this day, Don enjoys adding to his collections of coins, rocks, shells and toy car replicas. He continues to enjoy exotic cars, and Foundation staff members have taken him to visit special car exhibits including a recent exhibit of Duesenbergs. 

Don also has remained an active supporter of St. Mary, and has set up several Charitable Gift Annuities with St. Mary Medical Center Foundation. With the regular high fixed-annuity rate he receives, Don is able to afford his assisted living accommodations and still have money left over to indulge in his hobbies. Don also has included the St. Mary Foundation in his Trust, leaving an ultimate gift and legacy. 

Ginny spent her last four years living in a memory care facility, where Don visited her every day. She passed away in 2013. Without heirs, Don wanted his estate to benefit others. "Not having any family, there is no reason for me to leave a large estate for the government to act upon," he says. "The income I earn from the annuities pays very well and a large portion of those payments are tax-free. Plus, the St. Mary staff looks after me, and has for a long time. I like supporting an
institution like St. Mary that does the greatest good." 

Spoken like a true member of the Greatest Generation.