MARTIN FREDRICK JOHNSON

1955 – 2023

 

He loathed hypocrisy

 

Martin with Luc and Summer.

Avid hockey player, gifted artist, dog lover, entrepreneur, and doting father, Martin Fredrick Johnson treasured life in Alaska and his authentic principles. He loathed hypocrisy, championed sincerity, and ceased hunting because he didn’t think it was worth taking the life of a moose or a bear. His own life ended in the middle of the night on October 22, 2023, due to complications from pulmonary fibrosis after triple heart bypass surgery at Providence Hospital in Anchorage. Fortunately, his adored children, daughter Summer Johnson-Thomas and son Luc Johnson were able to spend time with him and say their goodbyes earlier that evening. He was 67.

Martin took pride in having named his children. He said his daughter Summer was born on the most beautiful day of summer in 1987, and that her birthday was always the most beautiful day of summer every year. Luc, born in 1992, was given the French version of Luke to honor his mother’s French heritage. Martin was also undoubtedly inspired by the hockey player Luc Robitaille, who set many NHL records that same year.

An early globe trotter

The fourth of six children, Martin was born December 10, 1955, in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho to Hazel Rantala Johnson, a homemaker and public school teacher, and Floyd Raymond Johnson, an engineer and forestry worker. Hazel was in the Women’s Army Corps during WWII, and Floyd served as a radio operator for Naval Intelligence, then went on to work for both U.S. Aid and the United Nations.

Martin at the Temple of Didyma,Turkey, 1968.

An early globe trotter, Martin grew up in Alaska and the Middle East. He lived in Bandar-Anzali, Iran from 1961-62. His family then moved to Anchorage, where he attended Lake Otis and Tudor Elementary schools. In 1968-69 his family lived in Turkey, and he attended a base school in Ankara. He had fond memories of visiting a seaside town called Antalya and swimming in the Mediterranean Sea. They then returned to Alaska and he attended Wendler Junior High and Service High School when it was Service Hanshew.

Playing hockey was Martin’s passion, even as a child in Alaska; he always made time to watch it on TV and played on the Service High School Hockey Team. In his 20s, he suffered a knee injury, which prohibited him from playing for several years. Once he was healed, hockey became a constant until a few years before his death. The last club he played for was the 49ers. He taught his grandson to skate and play hockey on the ice rink at Klatt Elementary in 2020 despite progressive health issues.

Opposites in every way

Martin, his parents Floyd and Hazel, and his four sisters: Louise, Sara, Ellen and Maggie.

Martin met Brenda Levesque in the 1970s. Opposites in every way, Martin—a 5-foot-10, blond, exercise fanatic with matinee idol looks—and Brenda, a raven-haired stunner with sparkling blue eyes, and magnificent, long legs. Close friends with her two brothers, Martin began a long courtship with Brenda, sealed with a promise ring that became an engagement ring. But he was a loner, and she was a people person.

After 19 years of marriage, their differences eventually divided them. Extroverted and outgoing, Brenda loved parties and dressing up. Martin, who preferred jeans and t-shirts, was introverted, and anxious, and preferred doing things solo, such as rollerblading and biking on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. When he turned 40, Brenda sent a singing birthday telegram to his office. He hated it. She loved telling the story and would always bust out laughing about how much he hated it.

Brenda, Summer, and Martin.

Children and dogs gravitated to Martin. Permissive as a parent, he never emphasized education and couldn’t have cared less about grades. He would even brag about how he made up essays in school about books he hadn’t read and still passed. Since he was extremely athletic, he seemed most invested in his children’s sporting events. One year, he coached hockey for one of Luc’s teams and would often help his son practice hockey and baseball. Martin never wanted to be the type of parent who dictated to his children or forced them to pursue something they were not interested in.

Trans-Alaska Pipeline

One of Martin’s first jobs was helping build the famous Trans-Alaska Pipeline System in the 1970s. For most of his career, he worked in sales and logistics for lighting companies, including Klondike Sales, and helped manage the sale of the candy cane light poles in North Pole, AK. Later, he worked for oil companies, including Pioneer Natural Resources, later bought by Caelus Energy, where Martin won recognition. He was forced into early retirement when Caelus Energy abruptly fired many of its Alaska workforce during a huge oil company downsizing in 2016/2017.

Martin’s mom Hazel, Summer, dad, and Luc at Summer’s high school graduation in 2005.

Seemingly shackled by the responsibilities of being a suburban husband and father, Martin had many hopes and dreams, including, at one time, becoming a pro-bowler. He tried to start a website that kept track of youth sporting events in the mid-90s. He was always starting businesses that never seemed to materialize. New ideas for businesses or how to improve the way something was done perpetually occupied him. He even brought a notepad with a list of business names and ideas to the hospital before his fatal surgery.

Martin owned his first home in Wasilla, AK in the 1980s, then bought a house in Anchorage in 1991. In the early 2000s, he moved back into the home in Anchorage where he grew up and spent a lot of time with his family and friends at the dry log cabin his father built in Chickaloon, AK.

Masterful craftsman

Despite a total lack of carpentry lessons, he was a masterful craftsman. He built a deck and bridge in his backyard with beautiful cement stairs and constructed a clubhouse attached to a pre-purchased swing set. But Summer refused to enter the clubhouse after she saw a spider egg nest in it. Martin also turned his downstairs bathroom into a Scandinavian cabin-style sanctuary.  One winter, he even converted his entire backyard into a real-life ice rink but vowed never to do it again because, predictably, it killed all the grass.

Drawn to the counterculture, those on the fringes who questioned authority, whether through journalism, music, or comedy, Martin loved watching Saturday Night Live in the ’80s. Summer remembers her dad impersonating Woody Woodpecker, Foghorn Leghorn, and the Jon Lovitz characters on SNL. She loved his silly impressions, like signing the “Lollipop Guild” song from The Wizard of Oz. He would let her stay up late with him to watch Space Ghost Coast to Coast in the 90s.

Meanwhile, his wife, Brenda kept trying to buy Martin his favorite movie, Caddyshack, as a Christmas gift, and every year she would accidentally buy Caddyshack II – which he thought was an awful sequel. It became a running joke. He perennially loved Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. He enjoyed Matchbox 20 in the 90s and Lana Del Rey in the 2010s.

He had his annoying moments, like saying things were “asinine” all the time. He hated hearing the sound of chewing, and every time he heard a good idea, he said he had already thought of it.

The beloved dogs

Cato

Martin loved his dogs more than anything on this earth. Ranger (Malamute), ‘80s-90s; Neon (German Shepherd/Shiba Inu/Mutt) 2002-2013, and Cato (Samoyed) 2014– Present. He felt each one was the “best” dog a man could ask for. He loved taking them on walks and having people comment on how handsome or cute they were. He fed them possibly better than he fed himself. They all had very different and unique personalities, but above all, they loved Martin more than life itself. Dedicated to hockey and his dogs, he combined the two, naming his Malamute “Ranger” after the New York Rangers

Raised a Lutheran, Martin was thoroughly agnostic his entire adult life. He never spoke of God, but sometimes would mention The Universe or Cosmic Consciousness. He was not religious but could be described as somewhat spiritual. He seemed to believe in a power greater than himself.

Preceded in death by his parents, Hazel and Floyd Johnson, and sisters Maggie Johnson, Sara Lynch, and Ellie Burnett, Martin is survived by his ex-wife, Brenda Levesque; his daughter Summer Johnson-Thomas; grandson Kaius Thomas; son Luc Johnson (all of Anchorage, AK); brother William Johnson (Chickaloon, AK) and sister Louise Lane, (Anchorage). Also nieces Maija Lukin (Wasilla, AK), Saima Chase, (Kotzebue, AK), Elsa Gilbert, (Rensselaer, IN) Martha Rosenstein (Anchorage), and nephews Nils Lane and Jani Lane, both of Anchorage.

A memorial celebration for Martin is scheduled for Saturday, December 9th, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm at the Kincaid Chalet, 6998 Raspberry Rd, Anchorage, AK 99502. Some of his ashes will be buried next to his parents and siblings in Chickaloon at the family cemetery, the rest will be spread along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, the family appreciates donations to a GoFundMe for Martin’s beloved Samoyed dog, Cato: https://www.gofundme.com/f/yearly-vet-expenses-for-cato. Cato is 9 years old and the fund will provide for ordinary veterinary expenses for the next five years so he can stay with the family.

1 Comment

  1. Katharine Lowrie

    Loved writing about Martin with beautiful Summer’s help! She was a joy to work with, not to mention a great writer.

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