Cover photo for Ronald L. Johnson's Obituary
Ronald L. Johnson Profile Photo
1942 Ronald 2016

Ronald L. Johnson

February 19, 1942 — September 21, 2016

Ronald Lee Johnson was born in Portland, Oregon, on February 19, 1942, as the first child born to Bert and Fae Johnson.  The first few years of his life were spent at Camp Roberts near Paso Robles, California, where his father, a dentist, was stationed during World War II.  A younger brother, Gordon, joined the family in 1944.  After the war the family returned to Portland, where Ron grew up, attending grade school and academy.  A sister, Marianne, and another brother, Paul (already deceased) were added to the family in 1950 and 1952, respectively.  

Ron seemed to thrive on juggling multiple commitments.  During the last two years of high school he worked early morning shifts at a local donut shop for 15-20 hours/week (much to the delight of the rest of his family by the way), took clarinet lessons downtown Portland, played in the academy band, sang in the Rose Chorale, participated in a basketball league, sang in a quartet, and was able to maintain his GPA in the upper 3's.

Upon graduation from Portland Union Academy in 1960, he enrolled at Walla Walla College in the electrical engineering program.  He married Beryl Alderson on August 19, 1962, after his sophomore year, and they set up a home in College Place, Washington.  Both Ron and Beryl graduated from Walla Walla College with their bachelor's degrees in 1964.

In the fall of 1964 they moved to Corvallis, Oregon, where Ron attended Oregon State University, earning a master's degree in electrical engineering in December of 1965.  He then accepted a position at the venerable Bell Labs, the research arm of the old Bell telephone system, in New Jersey.  In late 1966 the first of three baby boys joined the family.  Ron adapted quickly to living on the east coast and soon was referring to the Jersey Shore (not the beach as they call it on the west coast) just like the natives.  While working for the labs he began taking evening classes toward his doctoral degree at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.  Faced with the reality of needing to travel to a distant school due to a specialty area degree change and his growing family responsibilities, now with three sons, he put finishing the degree on hold.  As it turned out, finishing the degree stayed on permanent hold, never taking priority above his family.

In 1975 Andrews University invited Ron to join their Engineering Technology faculty. After nearly 10 years in New Jersey, the now five-member family moved to Berrien Springs, where he began teaching.  After a year or so living in Berrien Springs, the family looked for a place outside of town more suited to keeping three young boys busy and out of trouble, more or less.  A small two-bedroom house on 40 acres was located about seven miles from the campus.  Although it was a challenge shoe-horning the family into such a small space, they managed for a year or so until a major addition could be built.  Ron and his father-in-law, an experienced builder, were able to complete the addition in the course of about a year, allowing the family finally to spread out in the added space.  About two-thirds of the property was occupied by apple and cherry trees and a grape vineyard, which required regular maintenance along with harvesting.  Ron's ability to juggle these multiple tasks, with the strong support of his wife Beryl, was simply amazing.  Having other family members visit in the fall also brought some additional fruit pickers.  No one was exempt, but it was always memorable and fun for all, at least for those whose picking days could be counted on one hand.  In recent years, most of the trees have gone due to old age, but maintaining the property was still an ongoing project for Ron.

As a teacher Ron was known for his interest in and concern for his students, not just academically but in all aspects of their lives.  He enjoyed teaching and the student interaction that comes with it.  During his years of teaching, the engineering program at Andrews University changed from Engineering Technology to a full-fledged Engineering degree, and he made important contributions to that transformation.

In 2008 he retired from teaching at Andrews University after 33 years, but took on the directorship of Physics Enterprises, a campus industry that builds physics demonstration equipment.  He developed a new product line by creating a device called the actuator.  

Ron passed away peacefully at Lakeland Medical Center in St Joseph, Michigan, on September 21, 2016, after a relatively short bout with complications due to his ongoing chronic lymphocytic leukemia.  

He is survived by his wife, Beryl; three sons--Drew (Elizabeth) of Seattle, Washington; Curt (Cheryl) of Holland, Michigan; and Grant (Rhoda) of Berrien Springs; and nine grandchildren--Taylor, Sadie, Molly, Cody, Curtis, Caleb, Cierra, Emily and Elijah.  

Funeral services will be on Saturday, October 1, in the Castelbuono Youth Chapel of Pioneer Memorial Church on the campus of Andrews University.  Friends may visit with the family beginning at 3 p.m., and the funeral will follow at 4 p.m.  A private burial will take place at Rose Hill Cemetery on October 2.

A memorial fund has been set up in Ron’s name to benefit the Andrews University Department of Engineering, Berrien Springs, MI  49104.

Memories and messages may be shared with the family online at

Castelbuono Youth Chapel
8655 University Blvd., Berrien Springs, Michigan 49103

Castelbuono Youth Chapel
8655 University Blvd., Berrien Springs, Michigan 49103

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