Dr. Donald Harvey Johnson

Johnson Enlarge photo


Retired anesthesiologist Dr. Donald Harvey Johnson of Durango died from complications of a fall Friday, June 1, 2012, in Denver. He was 81.

Known as “Don,” he was born to schoolteachers Robert and Alma Johnson on Oct. 3, 1930, in Camden, N.J., and grew up in suburban New Jersey.

“An exceptionally smart and driven student, he received a full scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania after getting a perfect score on the math portion of his SATs,” his family wrote. “From there, he followed his childhood calling to be a physician, pursuing medical studies at Philadelphia’s Hahnemann Medical College and an anesthesia residency at Huron Road Hospital in Cleveland.”

On June 21, 1952, he married Betty Smith in Collingswood, N.J. She preceded him in death after 26 years of marriage.

In the early years of the Vietnam War, Dr. Johnson served in the Army at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., then had a 35-year career as an anesthesiologist at West Jersey Hospital, where his family said he saved many lives. During his last 15 years there, he also served as chairman of the Anesthesia Department.

“A man of many passions, Don’s interests included fast cars, photography, computers, classical music, playing the market, the Denver Broncos and red wine,” his family said. “A gifted tinkerer, Don loved to take things apart and fiddle with them and had been known to rewire entire houses to make them work in ways that suited him best.”

In 1982, he married Carolyn Avella. She preceded him in death in November 1985.

Dr. Johnson loved to travel and explored much of Europe, Central and South America and the Near East.

On June 21, 1986, he married Emily Porter in Cherry Hill, N.J.

“Don was an avid skier and passed this along to his many children and grandchildren, often taking the whole clan on ski trips to Vermont and upstate New York,” his family said. “This passion eventually led him to retire to Durango in 1995 with his beloved wife Emily, where they spent 10 years living on the mountain before moving to the Animas Valley. He frequently said how lucky he was to have been able to live in such beautiful country.”

Dr. Johnson also was preceded in death by his youngest daughter, Donna Kelly.

He is survived by his wife of 26 years, Emily Johnson of Durango; daughters Elizabeth Johnson of Worcester, Mass., Jean Johnson of Fort Myers, Fla., and Patricia Landis of Killeen, Texas; stepsons David Avella of Cherry Hill, Ken Avella of Philadelphia and Devin Porter of Seattle; brothers Robert Johnson of Cherry Hill and David Johnson of St. Petersburg, Fla.; seven grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

A celebration of life will be held at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Mercy Health Foundation, 1010 Three Springs Blvd., Durango, CO 81301.