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Johnson a 'driven' man

In Jeep, Cavetown man accompanied commanders during wartime; back home, he was a trucker but 'always had time' for his family

In Jeep, Cavetown man accompanied commanders during wartime; back home, he was a trucker but 'always had time' for his family

March 25, 2007|by MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail publishes "A Life Remembered." This continuing series takes a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Paul William Johnson Jr., who died March 12 at the age of 82. His obituary appeared in the March 13 editions of The Morning Herald and The Daily Mail.

During his service in two wars, Paul W. Johnson Jr. drove a Jeep for many well-known military figures and met others including George S. Patton, Douglas MacArthur and Dwight D. Eisenhower.

But the role he might have enjoyed even more was that of family man - husband to Vi for 53 years, father to Michael and "Pap" to grandson Mike Jr.

Paul, of Cavetown, died March 12 at the age of 82. Active nearly to the end of his life, Paul still was delivering tractor-trailers for Truck Enterprises of Hagerstown when he was in his mid-70s.

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"During his military service, Dad drove for Lt. Gen. R.L. Eichelberger and Lt. Gen. Walton Walker," Mike said. Both were commanding generals of the 8th Army.

Paul's experiences in both World War II and the Korean War, as well as Japan, earned him two Bronze Stars and two Presidential Citations.

Wounded in 1950 while driving Walker behind enemy lines in Korea, Paul still was in the hospital in Tokyo when the general was killed in a Jeep accident that same year, Mike said.

After World War II, Paul went to Texas and then to Korea until 1952, when he declined an offer to drive for Gen. Matthew Ridgway, commanding officer of all United Nations forces in Korea.

That year, Paul left the U.S. Army.

"Dad was really modest about his military service," Mike said. "People often said they never knew what he did."

Mike said his mother and father met after he returned from his military service through her best friend, Betty, who was dating Paul's brother, Aldene "Al" Johnson.

"Vi and I graduated from high school in 1950 and went to work the next day at Hagerstown Manufacturing Co.," Betty Johnson said. "We became friends right away."

Betty already was seeing Al when she got the idea that Vi and Paul might want to double date with them. Turns out, it was a good idea since both couples ended up marrying - Al and Betty in 1951, and Vi and Paul three years later.

"Al always said that Paul was the best big brother anyone could have," Betty said.

Vi, who will be 76 in less than a week, said she plans to continue working at the Mountain Gate Family Restaurant in Waynesboro, Pa.

"I don't want to sit at home and feel sad all the time, so I decided to keep busy," she said.

In their 53 years of marriage, Vi said Paul's leading characteristic was that he was kindhearted.

"And he always had time for his family," she said.

Paul was involved with vehicles of all kinds during his working life. He was a self-employed trucker for both Daily Express and Truck Enterprises, and retired from Antietam Equipment, where he was a mechanic, fabricator and welder.

"Dad wasn't around much during the week, but he usually came home on weekends," Mike said.

When he was home, Paul took the time to do things with his son, and later with his grandson, Mike Jr., now 24.

"Dad got me interested in go-carts, taking me to Pennsylvania to race," Mike said. Then when Mike Jr. started racing in the 1990s, "Pap" would go watch him religiously.

The family "business" of working with vehicles has continued with Mike at his garage, Johnson Automotive Inc. in Ringgold, and more recently with Mike Jr., who is working with his father.

"We're all driven," Mike said.

Paul often would show up unexpectedly at Mike's garage, first to help out, then later just to visit. Then the visits dwindled, and Paul spent most of his time at home, reading and working crossword puzzles.

As his father got older and his health started failing, Mike said he began chronicling his life, writing down things he wanted to say before he died.

"He wrote about how proud he was of me and how he knew my son was going to make it," Mike said. He even described how cancer was affecting him.

Betty said she always will remember the special relationship she and Al maintained with Paul and his family over the decades.

"We always said Paul was happiest when he had a wheel in his hand," Betty said.

After all, he was driven.

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