Paul N. Johnson
October 17, 2017
Paul N. Johnson, passed away on October 5, 2017 after a short illness. Paul was born to Paul and Gladys Johnson in South Dakota in 1930. He was raised on a farm with his younger brother and sister. As a young man on the farm, Paul once tried to tame and keep pet skunks until that dream was quickly quashed by a young woman named Delores Peterson. In 1951, Delores, who had forgiven but not forgotten the skunks, married Paul on the day before she graduated from high school. Paul and Delores would go on to celebrate 62 wedding anniversaries before cancer took Delores in 2014.
Paul and Delores moved to Colorado Springs in 1951 before Paul shipped out for service with the 196th Regimental Combat Team in Alaska. When he first arrived in Alaska, he was told by his commander that he would be in charge of teaching skiing to the troops. Paul had never skied. When he told his commander that he did not know how to ski, much less teach it, the commander, who knew of Paul's Scandinavian roots, responded, "It's in the blood." The commander was right, and in the years that followed anyone who watched Paul ski was impressed by his style and grace on the slopes. In the decades that followed, three of his children taught skiing in Aspen and all of his children and grandchildren learned to ski (the great-grandchildren have begun their lessons too).
In 1959, after Paul was honorably discharged from the Army, he and Delores moved over the mountains into Aspen where Paul helped the fledgling ski industry develop and thrive. Paul had a direct hand in Aspen's growth as a carpenter and contractor with a natural desire to perfect his art. Paul spent decades building Aspen one home or restaurant at a time, and he taught both of his sons to do the same. He built the original Ullrhof, buildings at Highlands, Snowmass, and worked on properties all over the valley, including his own Park Avenue home.
Paul and Delores retired in 1997, sold their Aspen home, bought a new motor home, and went in search of warmer winters. They spent years in Sedona, Flagstaff, and Las Vegas and travelled to visit family and friends from New York to Washington and everywhere in between.
In 2014, Paul lost Delores and embarked on a new chapter in his life without his partner of six decades. Though he missed Delores every day, he and his beloved Cocker Spaniel did their best to make the most of the time they had left. He spent time with his family and made friends with Julie Hesse with whom he enjoyed many adventures. He celebrated weddings, graduations, family reunions, births of great-grandchildren, and good times with family and friends.
Paul was kind, generous, tough, and loving all at the same time. His children remember him scrubbing the family car before any road trip, edging the lawn with scissors before weed-whackers existed, and even putting out a fire on Independence Pass by taking off his hub caps and using them to shovel dirt. Paul built a world we could all be proud of one board, one building, and one extinguished fire at a time.
Paul was preceded in death by his parents, his wife Delores, his brother Harlan, and his oldest daughter Paula Johnson. He is survived by his sons Peter and Eric Johnson, daughter Kristin (Tom) Boronski, son-in-law Robert Grundy, sister Jean Games, sister-in-law Donna (Bill) Noble, seven grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, many nieces and nephews, and a devoted Cocker Spaniel.
A cocktail party to celebrate his life will be held on Saturday, November 11th from 4:00-7:00 p.m. at the Chart House, 25908 Genessee Trail Road, Golden, CO, all are welcome including children. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the Paula Johnson Memorial Fund, Aspen Center for Physics, 700 W. Gillespie Street, Aspen, CO 81611.
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