Claud L. (Les) Johnson
1925 ~ 2023
Captain Claud Leslie (Les) Johnson, age 98, was born in Taylor’s Falls in 1925 and grew up in Shafer, Minnesota where he was the youngest of five children. He walked through a wooded lot to the Shafer elementary school and later attended Chi-Hi where he played basketball and 6-man football. To make ends meet during the Depression, Les’s family raised guinea pigs in their basement and would sell the ‘pigs’ to the University of Minnesota.
Les fell in love with Lillian Bloom when he heard her sing with the Junior Mission Band of Center City Lutheran Church. Les saw stars when Lillian sat next to him in the back seat of the bus going to High School basketball games. Les’s mom rode in the front of the same bus, as a chaperone.
During World War II, Les enlisted in the Navy and he loved it. He appreciated the structure and three-square meals a day. This was where Les learned to fly airplanes, following in the footsteps of his older brother Darrel. Sadly, Darrell was killed while serving on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific.
In 1945, near the end of the war, while Les was stationed in Corpus Christi, Texas, Lillian took the train from Minnesota to visit Les. They were married in Corpus Christi with three people in attendance; along with the pastor and his wife, who played the organ. Les was under-age and had to call his mother in Shafer to get permission to get married, which was enthusiastically granted.
Sorrow struck again when Les and Lil’s first child Gregory was born with Down’s syndrome. Gregory did bring joy to their hearts with his affectionate nature and his energetic dancing. He would turn heads with his robust singing of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus.
Les and Lil went on to have four more children, 13 grand-children, and over 20 great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren, with more on the way.
After the war Les continued flying, doing some crop dusting in Montana. In 1950 Les was hired by Northwest Airlines. In those early days, Les was laid off every winter when the airline curtailed seasonal operation. One of Les’s early flights was to Tokyo, Japan. Les flew copilot in a DC-4 which required three stops for re-fueling. The stops were Edmonton, Anchorage, and Shemya in the Aleutian Islands. In his later career, he flew 747s non-stop to Tokyo and beyond.
In the early 1970s Les accepted a temporary NWA contract position flying for Olympic airlines, and along with Lil and the youngest children, lived for a short time in Athens, Greece. In 1975, Les’s flying career was interrupted when he had a stroke while flying a plane home from Chicago. Les returned to airline service after recovering from the stroke. In 1985, at age 60, Les faced mandatory retirement, but he voluntarily stayed in the cockpit for another 10 years as a Second Officer (Flight Engineer).
After retirement, Les bought an Aeronca airplane that had two seats and a top speed of 80 mph. Les kept it at the airport in Osceola, Wisconsin.
Les was preceded in death by his parents and four siblings, his wife Lillian, and son, Gregory. He is survived by son, Steve (wife Jerri), son Daniel (wife, Susan), daughter Susan Ewert (husband James), and daughter Jennifer Munger (husband, Scott).
Les has always had a strong faith and has trusted in the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Because of his faith in Christ, he has always been active in church activities and loved to study the Bible. Les has entered into the arms of Jesus.
(- Johnson Family and Bill Day)