Photography

Craig Robert Johnson

May 17, 1937 ~ December 15, 2020 (age 83)

Obituary

Johnson, Craig Robert, of Wayzata, Minnesota, passed away on December 15, 2020, at the age of 83. Craig was armed with the best sense of humor, an easy-going charm, and an immense enthusiasm for sports. But he was most known for the vast love he had for his family and friends and for his love of Jesus. Born on Norwegian Independence Day (Syttende Mai) May 17, 1937, in Greenbush, Minnesota, Craig was a proud Benson Brave (class of ’55) who regularly pointed out the many ways his small town outdid his wife’s small town of Grafton, ND. Deciding to attend Concordia College in Moorhead based almost solely on its shiny new gym, Craig knew he wanted to be a high school basketball coach and teacher. After graduation and anxious for adventure, every few years he moved to various small-town schools, including Bertha-Hewitt, Pelican Rapids, Crookston, and Superior. Meeting his wife, Jean, in Crookston, they eventually settled in Wayzata, where he coached the varsity boys’ basketball team and taught at Wayzata High School for twenty-five years. In 1981–82, with three kids in tow, Craig convinced Jean to go on another adventure by taking a year-long sabbatical to Charlottesville, Virginia, to further his education and be an assistant coach for the University of Virginia men’s basketball team. The family embraced the adventure, and Craig’s desire for a periodic change of pace influenced his wife and children to be seekers of “new things” in years to come. After retiring from teaching and coaching in 1995 (somewhat abruptly if you ask Jean), Craig sought one more unique life experience, this time an international one. With sons Craig in Chicago and Kurt in Nepal (Peace Corps), Craig yet again used his charm offensives to convince Jean and Jennifer to move to Izmir, Turkey, where he and Jean taught at a private Turkish school. The two years proved to be some of Craig’s most uniquely memorable, and he published a meaningful and witty memoir to prove it—Eat the Grapes. In the last decade of his life, he took so much joy from people reading the anecdotes of a 6’4’’ Minnesotan sometimes awkwardly but always joyfully navigating a new culture with his family. Craig’s family remembers his daily saying as they walked out the door or ended a phone call: “Make it a great day!” Not “have” a good day but “make” it one—because Craig believed we all have agency to use our God-given gifts and talents to their greatest end. Craig sure did in all he accomplished: as a coach, teacher, volunteer, friend, husband, father, and grandfather. His favorite Bible verse was Micah 6:8: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Craig did what the Lord required of him, and he was ready to go home to Him. Fun-loving and devoted husband to Jean, his faithful wife of 53 years, Craig was the father to Craig S. (Heidi) of Chicago; Kurt (Bekah) of Indonesia; and Jennifer (Zach) Boardman of Woodbury. He was the proud grandpa to Craig J., Campbell, Jonas, and Magnus Johnson; Hazel and Sam Johnson; and Ingrid, Lowell, and Wallace Boardman. He is also survived by his sister, Kären Bihrle (Peter Sethre) of Minnetonka, many nieces and nephews, and countless friends—from his childhood buddies in Benson to his fantasy football crew that met weekly at Maggie’s Family Restaurant. Craig is preceded in death by his father, Craig Lowell; mother, Donna King; and daughter Nel Jennifer. Craig’s family will miss him tremendously, but we vow to continue to eat the grapes, make it a great day, and walk humbly with our God. Craig’s family would like to especially thank Grace Hospice and Folkestone staff for their kind, loving, and tender care of Craig in his last weeks. A private memorial service was held for the family, and there will be a celebration of life in 2021. Please sign the online guest book to share any memories through the Star Tribune or David Lee Funeral Home. We ask that in lieu of flowers, donations are preferred to: Peruvian Partners Ministries (peruvianpartners.org), Wooddale Church (wooddale.org), or Benson High School (re: The Craig Johnson Memorial Award).

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