The Arkansas Leader

Gene Johnson, 1960-2020Free Access

Gene Johnson, a longtime employee of The Leader who was the newspaper’s mechanic, handyman, driver and a lot more, died on Tuesday at the age of 60.
He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer about two weeks ago. His demise was sudden and shocking to his colleagues and friends.
Gene worked for the newspaper since 2003, making sure its buildings, vehicles, heating and air conditioning, windows, roof, lights, and just about everything else around here, was in good order.
He was born on May 30, 1960, in North Little Rock and was a graduate of Jacksonville High School.
Gene was a captain at the South Bend Fire Department, where he had served as a volunteer firefighter since 1995.
He is survived by his 20-year-old daughter, Melissa Ann Johnson.
He was a good man, who was always happy to help.
Gene lost his father when he was a teenager. He collapsed from heat stroke while cutting the grass. Gene was with him when he died.
Gene shared with people how his father died to warn people about the dangers of extreme heat, but also to tell people that none of us know how much time we have left in life and that we should live good and meaningful lives while we can.
Gene remembered hundreds of people attended his father’s funeral. He would no doubt have a similar sendoff if not for COVID-19 restrictions. He will be missed by many.
Every summer, he and his best friend, Kenny Fraley, would camp and canoe on the Elk River in the Missouri Ozarks. Gene enjoyed sharing stories about those trips.
Once, after being told that the actor James Garner said that not everyone in Hollywood is from Arkansas or Oklahoma, Gene said that Garner was his cousin. There was a resemblance.
Garner was born in Norman, Okla., and shortened his name from Bumgarner. Gene disputed that Garner was born in Oklahoma, insisting that he was an Arkie through and through, and there were still some hard feelings after Garner stopped attending the family reunions when he became a movie star.
Gene’s legacy will be his willingness to help, solve problems and leave a place better than he found it. May he rest in peace.
Visitation will be held from 6 till 8 p.m. Wednesday, and the funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday at A Natural State Funeral Home in Jacksonville.
He will be buried at Arkansas Memorial Gardens on Hwy. 161, near his parents, immediately following the funeral.

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