Gene Johnson

gene johnson
Gene P. Johnson, 75, of Fargo, died January 24, 2010 of injuries sustained while scuba diving off Cozumel, Mexico. He was a well-known lawyer and figure in the Fargo-Moorhead community. Gene Johnson was born July 1, 1934 in Minot, ND, graduated from Shanley High School in Fargo, St. John’s University at Collegeville, MN in 1956 and from Georgetown University Law Center in 1959. He practiced law in Fargo for 42 years before retiring. His law career included cases that set state and federal precedents. He married R. Bernadine Erickson in 1960 and had four sons, Paul (Shelly) of Henderson, NV, Mark (Suzanne) and Michael, both of Minneapolis and Dan, Fargo, all of whom survive him. Johnson was a passionate supporter of the poor, the homeless and the disadvantaged, devoting considerable time to homeless shelters, the Salvation Army, Meals on Wheels and, his favorite charity, Churches United for the Homeless. Gene was a lover of nature, an accomplished nature photographer and an outdoor enthusiast, raising his sons in campsites, canoes and sailboats. He sailed many years on Pelican Lake, and from 1974 until his death, captained and sailed 30’ sloops on Lake Superior. At age 60, Johnson became certified as an advanced scuba diver whose goal was becoming the oldest active scuba diver in the world. We don’t know if he accomplished that, but dove in his beloved Minnesota lakes, and made annual trips to go diving in the Caribbean where he suffered his fatal injuries. On his 64th birthday he concluded a solo canoe trip of nearly 1,000 miles from Fargo to Minneapolis. On his 69th birthday he rode his bicycle from Fargo to Minneapolis with a 75-pound pack on his back. On his 75th birthday he rode 75 miles on his bicycle. The most important thing in his busy life was his sobriety, which included active participation in a twelve-step recovery program from 1979 continuously until his death. Without his recovery from alcoholism, he said he never would have enjoyed all the wonders of his life. A life-long Roman Catholic, Gene was a strong supporter of ecumenism and, occasionally, a thoughtful critic of the Church. In addition to his sons, he is survived by his brother, Don (Hobbs, NM), granddaughters Tatum and Amelie and four grandsons, Felix, Andrew, Mitchell and Nicholas and Maureta Studebaker, his beloved friend since 1988. Johnson was preceded in death by his father (Quentin), mother (Marie) and brothers Quentin and Lowell. There will be a visitation from 5-7 with a prayer service at 7 in Nativity Catholic Church on Friday, January 29. There will be a memorial service on Saturday, January 30 at 10 in Nativity Catholic Church with visitation 1 hour prior to the service in the church. Please feel free to sign the online guestbook at

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