Paul Lewis “PJ” Johnson was born in Fargo, North Dakota on August 17, 1948 to Robert Marshall and Elaine Barbara (Olson) Johnson. During his childhood, he found a love of archery shooting. This sport became a favorite activity in which Paul and his father would compete. The whole family, including his mother, older brother, Jim and younger sister, Barbara would travel around the United States to competitions. In 1960, at age 12, Paul became the National Junior Archery Champion. Paul graduated from Fargo North High School in 1966 and enrolled in the United States Marine Corps.
Paul was a member of Second Platoon, India Company, 3rd Battalion, 26th Marine Regiment during most of 1968 in Vietnam. He was the Squad Leader for the machine gun teams and served on Hill 881 South at Khe Sanh. F. Phil Torres, retired Colonel of Marines described the gun teams “like a security blanket. When we heard their sound, we felt everything was going to work out okay. [Paul] was special. What he and his Marines did for us was unique. [Their] guns were the trumpets that lifted our spirits and brought us all together as one fighting unit.” Paul was honorably discharged on May 1st, 1970.
After his service with the United States Marine Corps. Paul moved back to Fargo, North Dakota to attend North Dakota State University where he earned an Animal Science degree. Upon completion, he moved to Pullman, Washington to begin his career at Washington State University School of Veterinary Medicine. He spent the next 30 years as the Instructional Supervisor in the Veterinary and Comparative Anatomy, Pharmacology and Physiology department, now Integrative Physiology and Neuroscience. PJ was key in establishing and managing the Worthman Anatomy Museum and provided expert oversight of the veterinary anatomy area in McCoy Hall. During this time, almost every single vet student would pass through the lab. All who were lucky enough, had the occasion to write part of their story with PJ. He was just that type of person; always willing to lend a hand and share something to take along in life. He helped generations of students become veterinarians. Paul retired in 2010.
Paul also had a passion for running and horses. Throughout his career; alongside colleagues and friends he completed thousands of miles on foot while training on the Pullman streets, country roads and Martin Stadium stairs to compete in road races, marathons and a 100 mile Western States race down in southern California. He also completed several races called Ride and Tie where he ran and rode horses with a human team member and horse team member over mountainous terrains for 30 miles or more. This became another event where family would join. On these trips, it was now Paul’s family traveling around the western coast of the US and Canada.
Once Paul retired, he appeared determined to become a reclusive mountain man and create a place where he could live off the grid. However, beneath his put-on crusty demeanor, he stayed active running into his 60’s (logging his 60,000 mile on his 60th birthday), riding horses and “hogs” (motorcycles), and working to preserve the 25 acres where he resided. MOST OF ALL, Paul continued nourishing relationships with his family and all the people he met throughout his life…the childhood friends, the old and new Marine Corp. jarheads, the vet school students and colleagues who became friends, the running friends and any others he met along the way including, the medical treatment people that became friends even at the end.
Paul could be mistaken as a quiet, humble man however, he always had a story to share from a past adventure as well as a prideful narrative about his son, daughter, son in law or most beloved grandchildren.
Paul was diagnosed with Myoepithelial Carcinoma in March 2020. His treatment plan was aggressive in an effort to delay this rare and rapidly growing cancer however, after two surgeries and chemo and radiation treatments the cancer continued to spread to his chest and lungs ultimately sending him to rest peacefully and pain free at home on November 14th, 2020. He was in the care of hospice and surrounded by his daughter’s family; Sara, husband John, and three grandchildren as well as close friends who are like family-just as he wished.
Paul is survived by his son, Brent Johnson, daughter, Sara Eisenbarth (Johnson), son-in law, John Eisenbarth and three grandchildren, Jared Eisenbarth, Gavin Eisenbarth and Ella Eisenbarth, sister, Barbara Douglas (Johnson), brother in law, David Douglas and two nieces and their families, Miel Dotson (Silbernagel) and Coco Peterson (Silbernagel).
He was preceded in death by his parents and older brother James Marshall Johnson.
There will be a Celebration of Life for Paul scheduled for the Spring/Summer 2021 at his residence on Moscow Mountain. Plans for this celebration are underway.
To send flowers to Paul's family, please visit our floral store.