L. Dee Johnson, age 84, passed away peacefully in his sleep on the evening of June 3, 2023, in Snowflake, AZ. He spent his last few days surrounded by friends and family.
Dee was born to Anthon and Willa Mae Johnson on July 5, 1938, in Lakeside, Arizona, the seventh of ten children. His paternal grandparents, Louis and Theresa Johnson, were among the original founders of the town. He spent his early years in Lakeside, with a large extended family nearby. When he was twelve years old, his family moved to Woodruff, Arizona, where he met Janice Turley, the proverbial girl-next-door who would soon capture his heart and ultimately become his wife. Dee attended Holbrook High School and played on the football team. It was also in Woodruff where Dee developed a life-long love affair with both farming and ranching. Upon graduation, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he spent the next two years. After his return, he married Janice on July 17, 1959, in the Mesa Arizona Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They both graduated from Arizona State University, where he obtained a B.A. in Secondary Education and became a devoted fan of ASU football. In 1964, with two daughters in tow, the family moved to Snowflake, where Dee and Janice lived the rest of their years. Dee taught at the high school and added three daughters to the ever-expanding brood. He was endlessly devoted to his five girls and would do anything for them. But one little piece seemed to be missing. When hope seemed to be all but lost, lightning struck. Dee got the little cowboy son he always wanted but never thought he would get.
Within a few short years, Dee was hired to be the Assistant Principal of Snowflake High School and, at the same time, obtained an M.A. in Administration from Northern Arizona University. He later became Principal, a job he loved because of the daily interaction with the students. Dee subsequently served as the Assistant Superintendent of the Snowflake Unified School District. After retirement from his career in education, Dee returned to one of the passions of his youth and became a full-time rancher. His dream was fully realized when his son graduated from ASU and returned home to join him in his ranching and land business. For the rest of his life, Dee continued to contribute significantly to the success of the town he called home (technically, Snowflake, but to those in the area, the booming “suburb” of Bellybutton). From volunteering as the Captain of the Sheriff’s Posse, President of the Silver Creek Irrigation District or Member of the Snowflake Town Council, Dee’s life was marked by service to family, friends and community.
After almost 50 years of marriage, Dee lost his beloved Janice to cancer in 2007. He is survived by his adoring children Dayna (Mike) Wells, Melanie (Mark) Larson, Vonda (Paul) Wangemann, Kim (Cory) Pence, Nikki Johnson and Cory (Rikki) Johnson. He also leaves behind 22 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren that he doted on.
Funeral services will be held at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 10th, preceded by a viewing at 1:30 p.m., at the Centennial Stake Center, 9th South 2nd West, Snowflake, AZ. Burial, after a brief graveside service, will take place at the Snowflake Cemetery following the funeral.