Stanley Johnson

In Memoriam

In 2011, Friends of Mystery lost one of its founders and cherished members, Stanley Lewis Johnson. Stan not only helped found FOM, but over the years provided leadership, inspiration, passion for literature, and friendship. He was a frequent contributor to The Blood-Letter, and an active, energetic participant in Bloody Thursdays and in the life of Friends of Mystery. He will be greatly missed.

What follows is his own telling of his rich and varied life, shared at his memorial service on July 29, 2011 with all those who cared for him.

Stanley Lewis Johnson

Born October 6, 1920 in Garland, Utah

Passed away July
27, 2011 in Gresham Oregon

Stanley Lewis Johnson was born in Garland, Utah on October 6, 1920, the first of seven children of E. Lewis and Ida Hansen Johnson.

He grew up on the family farm in Garland, attended Garland Grade School 1926-1934, and Bear River High School 1934-1938. In high school, he edited the school paper, The Searchlight, and appearing in several school plays, including the operetta The Nightingale in his favorite role as the Emperor of China.

While in high school, he began writing for the local paper, The Garland Times, which evolved into a weekly column called, “Columeandering,” and lasted for about 20 years.

He attended Weber College for two years, 1938-1940 and continued his interest in dramatics and journal. He worked on the school paper, and during his second year, was editor of the literary magazine, Scribulus, for which he wrote fiction and poetry.

He moved on to the University of Utah 1940-42, where he also followed literary interests as assistant editor of the literary magazine, for which he wrote poems and stories. Following Pearl Harbor, he was drafted into the Army, but was allowed to finish the college year and to graduate in May 1942.

Immediately after graduation, he was send to Camp Rucker, Alabama, for Basic Training in Company L, 323rd Infantry, 81st Infantry Division. Following maneuvers in Tennessee and desert training in Arizona, his unit shipped out to the South Pacific where they participated in the invasion of the Palau Islands. After the war ended, he was discharged and arrived home the day before Christmas, 1945, coming directly from his last duty with the occupation forces in Japan.

In the winter of 1946 he went to Los Angeles to begin graduate work in English at the University of Southern California. He completed his Ph.D. exams in November 1949. In January 1950, he left for Portland, Oregon to take a position in the English department at a new college that eventually became Portland State University. While teaching, he completed his dissertation on the works of Thomas Wolfe and received his Ph.D. in May 1955. He taught at Portland State for thirty-five years, retiring in 1985. He taught courses in American Literature and contemporary literature, including special studies in Ernest Hemmingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Thomas Wolfe.

With his fellow professors, Judd Bierman and James Hart, he edited four textbooks designed for college literature courses, including The Dramatic Experience and The Play and the Reader.

During his years in Portland, he developed a great interest in music, especially opera. He attended operas in Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and in several European cities, including London, Paris, Vienna, and St. Petersburg.

He enjoyed traveling, especially to Europe. He called Paris the greatest city in the world, and he also loved Vienna, especially for its musical connections. He followed the course of the great composers who had lived there, especially Beethoven, Mozart, and his favorite, Franz Schubert.

Beginning in 1980, he wrote articles for the Portland Opera programs, emphasizing the literary origins of most operas. He also wrote articles for the Musical Theatre Company’s programs and served on its board of directors for many years.

He was a member of the Thomas Wolfe Society, and visited Wolfe’s home town of Asheville, North Carolina several times for Wolfe’s birthday festival in October. He was a member of the planning committee that brought the Wolfe Society’s annual meeting to Portland in 2002, and presented a paper at that meeting on Wolfe’s travels in the west.

In retirement, he continued to work in several organizations, including the Senior Studies Institute and Friends of Mystery, for both of which he served terms as president. He also belonged to the Sherlock Holmes Society and the Portland State retired faculty association, whose award for community service he received in 2001.

He was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Survivors are four sisters and one brother: Barbara (Mrs. Wynn Tingey), Lola (Mrs. Willard Christensen), Shirleen (Mrs. Don Anderson), Nacele (Mrs. Harold Hart), and Hollis Johnson. One brother, DeVerl, preceded him in death. His extended family includes Dennis Wade & family, Dick List & family, Rebecca Robinson, and Abdu Choviyahk.

Contributions in his name may be made to the University of Utah, University of Southern California, Portland State University, or the Thomas Wolfe Society.

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Bloody Thursdays

Our 2023-2024 Season opens with a panel of former law enforcement officers who write crime. In November, welcome Daniel Nieh, then James Byrne in January, Susan Elie MacNeal in March. We close the season in May with Elle Marr and Valerie Geary.

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