Welcome to the memorial page for

Charles Edwin Johnson

August 7, 1945 ~ January 10, 2018 (age 72)
Obituary Image

Charles Edwin Johnson, 72, of Highlands Ranch, CO passed away on January 10, 2018 following a 19 year hard-fought battle with autoimmune liver disease. Charles was an amazing, admired, and loved man. He had a wry sense of humor and wit and dreamed big in all he did. He mentored those around him and instilled in his family an appreciation for education and knowledge. He lived his life as an example of good character.

He was born August 7, 1945 in Miami, AZ, a small copper mining town. He graduated from Arizona State University in 1968 with a BS in Electrical Engineering and from California State University at Long Beach with his Masters of Science.

Charles worked in the aerospace industry for more than 40 years. He worked at Motorola in AZ following graduation, then at Rockwell in CA for several years, before moving back to AZ to work for Motorola once again. Charles’ last move was to CO, where he worked for Lockheed Martin (formally Martin Marietta) for 28 years before retiring in 2012 after the launch of his final aerospace project, Juno. The Juno project held a special place in Charles’ memory because it was his final aerospace challenge and his entire family celebrated with him in July 2016 when Juno reached it’s Jupiter destination! In addition to supporting exploration of Jupiter, throughout his career Charles worked on several missions to explore Mars. Charles also developed software outside of work - he was so proud to develop for companies like Hewlett Packard and Apple.

Charles had many hobbies about which he was passionate. Although he was born and raised in the AZ desert, he learned to sail while living in CA and loved racing his sailboat every chance he got, including competing for a place in the olympics at one point. He was a member of the Cal State Sailing Club and the American Section of the International 505 Class Yacht Racing Association. He was also a LA County Lifeguard and certified underwater instructor for LA County. He loved scuba diving along the CA coast from Mexico to Santa Barbara along with camping and four-wheeling especially, in places like Joshua Tree, Death Valley, and Anza Borrego. He also loved canoeing; Charles and his canoe, Nona, took family and friends on many a tranquil canoe rides across the the American southwest...and a few white-knuckle canoe trips too! Like his mother, Charles was also a great bridge player and was a member of the American Contract Bridge League as a Junior Master.

Later in life, he became an avid photographer and even had several of his photos published. He also won numerous awards including the 1996 Epcot Selection which was displayed at Epcot Center, Disney World, FL. Charles also began collecting bamboo and cultivating it in gardens around his yard. Charles fully embraced the phrase, “Not all who wander are lost.” His travels took him everywhere from a close call with a grizzly in Alaska, to hanging out with camels near the pyramids in Egypt, to swimming with sea turtles in Hawaii, to exploring Australia and New Zealand and all over Europe. He was also fascinated with tracing his family’s genealogy and spent hours pouring over and digitizing old family photographs and connecting with distant relatives. Charles practiced all of his hobbies with great enthusiasm and energy, making great friends along the way!

Although Charles had many loves, his greatest was by far his family, for whom he would have done anything. Charles and his wife, Kathryn, met in Huntington Beach, CA in 1972. Kay persuaded Charles to help fix her “broken” TV and he spent several days troubleshooting the TV before realizing it had only been unplugged (by Kay)! Kay and Charles shared countless travels and adventures together, including raising Charles’ son, Shane, and their daughters, Sara and Jolie. Perhaps, Charles’ most prized title of his lifetime though, was that of Papa to his grandchildren. His grandchildren changed their Papa in unbelievable ways - he even shared his drinking straw with them - something he would not even do with his own children! He passed on his passion for sailing to his grandchildren who spend their summers sailing at Cherry Creek Reservoir and Chatfield Reservoir.

Charles is survived by the love of his life, Kathryn; his children, Shane Johnson, Sara Depperschmidt and Jolie Olmi; his eight grandchildren, Exia, Peter, AJ, Charlie, Iris, Miriam, Osie, and Atlas; his son-in-laws, Andrew Depperschmidt and Michael Olmi; and his brother Tom Johnson and sister Diane Reed.

He is preceded in death by his parents, JQ and Bernice (Turner) Johnson and his brother Jimmy Johnson.

Services will be held on Sunday, January 28 at 10:00am at the Lake House at Cherry Creek Reservoir. The Lake House is located in Cherry Creek State Park (use the west entrance); when you arrive in the park, tell the Park Ranger that you are there for the Johnson Memorial Service at the Lake House. You do not need to pay the park entrance fee.  
Families (including children) are welcome. Charles spent his life striving to ensure everyone was included and he would love to know his memorial service was uplifted by the energy children bring! 

The Lake House at Cherry Creek (303)220-5253

4800 South Dayton Street
Greenwood Village, CO 80111

In lieu of flowers the family requests memorial contributions be made in Charles’ honor to Community Sailing of Colorado (CSC). 
CSC is a non-profit organization that Charles championed because their mission is to make sailing accessible to people of all ages, experience levels, and ability. Specifically, they have an adaptive sailing program that paves new pathways for individuals with physical and cognitive disabilities who desire the thrill of sailing in a safe and fun way. You can donate in Charles' name by mail to the following mailing address or by using the link below. Under "donation details" you can select the adaptive sailing program option for how your donation is directed. 


Community Sailing of Colorado

PO Box 102613
Denver, CO 80250


 Service Information

Celebration of Life
January 28, 2018

10:00 AM
Cherry Creek
4800 South Dayton Street
Greenwood Village, CO 80111

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