MISSOULA — Heaven gained a beautiful soul on Aug. 5, 2019, when our loving, blessed Gary passed from this life to the loving arms of our Lord and Savior. He was surrounded lovingly by his wife and two daughters in the comfort of home. He went peacefully after a two year battle with liver cancer.

Gary William Johnson was born on Jan. 22, 1941, at Missoula St. Patrick Hospital to Herbert Johnson and June Reynick Johnson. He was the fourth and youngest of four boys and adored by his older siblings and parents. Gary attended school at Florence Carlton grade school and high school in Florence, where he played sports including basketball and football. After high school, Gary enrolled at the University of Montana in Missoula. 

Gary’s love of music started at an early age when he taught himself to play the guitar. He wrote numerous songs which he went on to copywrite and record. Gary was always the main entertainment at every family event and sang solo renditions at various family celebrations. His voice was beautiful and the songs he wrote were inspired greatly by his faith in the Lord and his love for his wife and family. He reminisced about singing on stage at the Grand Ole’ Opry in Memphis years ago. In the late 1960s, while attending the U of M, Gary played in different bands and could be found entertaining with the “Westernairres” on Friday and Saturday nights at the Hideaway, or with the “Trailmasters” at the Elks Club Corner Bar. His voice and “Elvis-like” look and sound always brought a crowd. He also played with a band out of Memphis “Collin’s Coins” for a time. He was always singing, whether at Church singing in the choir or solo, out entertaining, at family gatherings, or just throughout his daily activities at home. His voice and beautiful songs will always be a great part of his legacy.

In 1966, Gary was introduced to Lea Doreen Johnson and two months later they were married on May 14, 1966. It was love at first sight and a match made in heaven. Gary and Lea celebrated their 53rd wedding anniversary in May of 2019 prior to his death. They brought two daughters into the world, Kari in 1967 and Dana in 1968. Throughout Gary’s life, his greatest joys were with his family. His wife, Lea Doreen, his daughters, grandchildren and most recently his first great-granddaughter, Elizabeth. His family was the most important part of his life from day one, and he gained so much joy being involved in each one of our lives. He had a gift of making each person feel special, and everyone always knew he could be counted on for anything at any time. He was a great loyal husband, wonderful father/grandfather and friend. In turn he brought much joy to everyone around him.

Gary joined the Marine Reserves in 1965. He was passionate about his country and loyal forever to America.

Gary retired from his job working for Missoula School District #1 in 2003, where he took employment just after college. He took pride in his work with the school district maintaining the various school buildings and built many relationships with teachers and administrators over the years. 

Gary and Lea moved to Washington state in 2012. They enjoyed many activities such as beautiful walks along the Columbia River, River cruises, and spending quality time with family close by. Gary’s last wishes were for the well being of his wife, Lea Doreen, his daughters and grandchildren. He was a selfless man, with so much love to give. He will never be forgotten, and he will live on through his family who he loved so dearly.

Gary is preceded in death by his parents, Herbert Johnson and June Reynick Johnson, as well as many friends and loving family.

Survivors include his loving wife, Lea Doreen Johnson, his daughters Kari Cullip and Dana Donahue, his grandchildren Adam Donahue (Kristen and Elizabeth) Zachary Cullip (Risa Cullip) Chelsea Donahue (Eli Blackburn) and Riliey Cullip. Brothers Noel Johnson (and family), Gale Johnson (MaryEllen and family) and Max Johnson (Donna and family) and numerous cousins, nieces and nephews.

A celebration of life will be held at Atonement Lutheran Church in Missoula on Aug. 24 at 2 p.m. In lieu of flowers, we are asking for donations to the American Cancer Society.

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