Johnson William Erik, 85, of Bentonville, AR, passed away March 8, 2002 in the presence of family members. Bill grew up near Slayton, MN, the first child of Ole and Beda Johnson. He attended the University of Minnesota and co-captained the 1940 National Championship Minnesota Gopher football team. After his rookie season with the Green Bay Parkers, he joined the U.S. Marines, served as a pilot in the South Pacific and attained the rank of major. Following the war and brief careers with Northwest Orient Airlines and two agribusiness firms, he and his wife, Harriet, returned to Slayton, where they owned and operated a successful livestock feed company. At the death of his father in 1971, Bill took over the family farm and in subsequent years developed it into one of the largest cattle operations in southwest MN. Bill and his wife retired to the Ozark Mountains in northwest AR in 1981. Surviving are wife, Harriet; 3 sons, Lee of White Bear Lake, MN, David of Bentonville, AR and Peter of Palm Springs, CA; 2 sisters, Ruth Hanson of Green Valley, AZ and Violet Hall of Portland, TX; and 4 grandchildren. He is preceded in death by 2 sisters, Signa Gagnon and Betty Ann Anderson; and 1 brother, Everett. Bill's aggressive spirit on the athletic fields was balanced by his kindness and love of children as his nieces, nephews, and grandchildren spent many summers on the family farm riding horses and learning lessons best taught in a rural setting. His life was shaped, paradoxically, by his love for athletic competition and his distrust of the competition of corporate America. He leaves us with better understandings about the excesses of each.

Published on March 24, 2002

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