Cover photo for Douglas Arnold Johnson's Obituary
Douglas Arnold Johnson Profile Photo
1960 Douglas 2022

Douglas Arnold Johnson

December 25, 1960 — August 28, 2022

Douglas Arnold Johnson, 61, of Emily, MN died unexpectedly on Sunday, August 28, 2022, when the Amphibious Light Sport plane he was piloting faltered on takeoff. As his family and friends, we are devastated at the loss of his life even as we are determined to celebrate and be grateful that God shared him with us.   

Doug was born in Rush City on December 25, 1960 to Lucille (Saumer) and Walt Johnson of Pine City. He was raised in Rock Creek and Pine City, attended Pine City Schools, and graduated from PCHS with the legendary Class of 1979. He was especially beloved in school and participated and excelled in athletics, music, art, and cartoons -- PCHS alum of a certain age will surely remember Phil and Danny! Post high school, Doug pursued education and training at St. Cloud State and later at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, but it was his first love -- flying -- that governed his passions throughout his life.  

On June 6, 1979, Doug enlisted in the United States Air Force and was stationed at Eglin AFB, Hurlburt Field as a weapons mechanic. In 1980, Doug was selected for the Top Secret (now declassified) mission to Egypt known as Operation Eagle Claw, the Iran Hostage Rescue Attempt. The experience left an indelible impact on Doug, and he often revisited his memories of the voices of USAF brotherhood rising in song when the mission was over.

Throughout his USAF career, which included Active Duty, Reserve Duty, and several overseas deployments, Doug distinguished himself and received numerous Commendation Medals and the Meritorious Service Medal. As a Senior Master Sergeant, Doug was recognized by his superiors and peers for his service at the 934th Airlift Wing, Mpls-St. Paul as manager of the Wing Emergency Management program. His oversight of base chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosives training helped the 934th maintain "a constant mission-ready status." Furthermore, as a member of the Base Honor Guard, Doug played TAPS on the coronet and provided honors at over 60 military funerals and numerous Color Guard events. Doug retired from the Air Force in 2012, rounding out his working career at the VA in the maintenance department until his retreat to life in Emily.

During his primary working years up until 2015, Doug also owned and operated Doug Johnson Painting, providing value-added, precision-quality interior and exterior residential and commercial pressure washing, staining, and painting. Ever visionary and curious, Doug held patents on a couple of solutions-oriented products that he invented. He was exceptionally gifted at construction and remodeling, and he accomplished an impressive body of work for the benefit of his family's home in Farmington, his residence in Emily, and at the homes of many, many relatives and friends.

As a father to three children, Doug is remembered for his humor, spirituality, wisdom, and storytelling. He was dedicated to helping to develop his children's interests and passions; he served in coaching roles for his sons, and he provided advice, guidance, and steadfast encouragement as his daughter and sons grew. He loved his children with devotion and was frequently capable of hours-long telephone conversations as they became adults themselves.

There was so much packed into Doug's life, we want to make sure we capture the highlights: as a woodcraftsman, Doug built cedar strip canoes along with other practical and artful creations too numerous to count. A self-taught musician, Doug played the guitar, sang, and performed with musicians from the 934th Airlift Wing and many other friends. He also wrote poetry and music, read voraciously as a life-long learner. Throughout his life, Doug enjoyed many hunting and fishing trips with family and friends, including trips to the Fishing Camp in Canada with Uncle Ray. 

But it was his love of flying that rounded out all the chapters of Doug's life. He received his Pilot's License in 1981, purchased an Ultralight in the early 2000's, and an Amphibious weight-shift "Cygnet" light sports plane in 2018. He achieved his Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) in 2020, pandemic be damned! During his nearly 4 years with the Cygnet, Doug provided introductory flights in and around the greater Brainerd Lakes area, and we are blessed with an abundance of videos and photos that represent Doug's happiest hours. 

Douglas MacArthur Arnold Schwarzenegger Johnson ("dug" for short) is survived by wife Rosemary Sundin of Emily; his children Jewell Johnson, Jesse Johnson, John Johnson (Brianna Whipkey) of Farmington; Rosemary's children Jenelle (Nancy) Nurthen of Washington, DC, Michael (Kimberly) Stahlke of Seattle, WA, and Vanessa Mullenix (Tim Nguyen) of Minneapolis; grandchildren Aiyana, Romany, Charles, Miriam, Abigail, Henry, Michael; brother Jerry (Char) Johnson of Canyon, sister Julie Billstein of Lake Elmo, brother David Johnson of Pine City; and many beloved aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, and friends.

Doug was preceded in death by his father Walt Johnson; mother Lucy Johnson; and cherished brother-in-law Mike Billstein. 

A Celebration of Life and Remembrance with military honors will be held in Pine City on Thursday, September 8, 2022, at the Pine County Fairgrounds (new) Event Center. Gathering at 4 PM, service at 5:30 PM, dinner immediately following, and after all that we'll end the day at the Pine City American Legion to raise a glass to our dear Doug. 

In lieu of flowers memorials in Doug’s memory may be directed to:

Make-A-Wish Foundation, 1919 University Avenue West, Suite 415, St. Paul, MN 55104

National Loon Center, P.O. Box 642, Crosslake, MN 56442

 Funeral arrangements are entrusted to the: Funeral and Cremation Service of Pine City, Swanson Chapel

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Douglas Arnold Johnson, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Thursday, September 8, 2022

4:00 - 5:30 pm (Central time)

Pine County Fairgrounds Event Center

707 1st Ave NW, Pine City, MN 55063

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

Celebration of Life

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Starts at 5:30 pm (Central time)

Pine County Fairgrounds Event Center

707 1st Ave NW, Pine City, MN 55063

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.


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