on my dad and his eightieth birthday

Yesterday was my dad’s eightieth birthday. I don’t want the day to slip by without some thoughts on the man who is the single biggest influence on my life of any mortal man on earth. My dad was raised on a homestead in central Alberta during the depression and World War II. I remember begging my dad to tell me the stories from the farm and of the war every chance I got. I marveled at how he could remember the details of the ebb and flow of the war, but of course, he lived through it. He learned that in life you must sacrifice in order to reach success. Everyone had to in those years. Some did better than others, but all who survived it learned to sacrifice. That is something that is lost on the present generations, including my own.

My dad as a young man drifted through several different jobs, many in the oilfields of Alberta, just opening up in those days. His home had a Christian mother and a diffident father – spiritually, he was confused, but he did have an acquaintance with the gospel. As a young man, after a crisis experience, he received godly counsel from one pastor (perhaps the point of his conversion) and then was discipled by another pastor. He was working in the oilpatch near my home town and attending a small gospel preaching church in town where he met my mother. They married and set out to establish a Christian home.

My dad became a business man in my home town – working the graveyard shift on the oil rigs and running his general insurance business during the day. He would sometimes be so tired customers would have to wake him up to do business. After some time he left the oilpatch behind and was full time in his business. He became successful and fairly well respected, serving our town as a municipal councilor and as acting mayor to fill out the term of a mayor who died while in office. He ran unsuccessfully for the provincial legislature on two occasions, both bitter disappointments to me, but my dad looks back and thinks it was probably better for us that he didn’t win.

More than anything that I appreciate about my dad is that he always took the time to talk to me. He taught me that being in business didn’t mean the abandonment of Christianity or integrity. He taught me a Christian world-view (though I am sure he wouldn’t think of it in those terms!) I well remember riding long highway trips with him (in Alberta we have lots of long, straight highways between towns miles apart). On those trips we would talk or listen to Christian men on the radio. Some were better than others and we would discuss them. He took me to Bible conferences at Prairie Bible Institute in Three Hills, AB. Those were stirring occasions. He took us to sumer camp, sometimes taking the week off to serve as a counselor at camp. He served in our local church in various offices.

My dad certainly wouldn’t claim to be perfect and he won’t be until he is caught up to glory. But my dad is a Christian man of integrity to whom I owe my physical and spiritual life. When I was but a wee lad, my dad explained the gospel to me and I trusted Jesus Christ as my Saviour.

Today, I thank God for my dad – he suffers today from Parkinson’s disease, his energy levels are not what they once were, but he’s doing pretty well for the shape he’s in! And inside a weakening body there still lives that faith that comes from Jesus Christ and the great work of God in providing eternal salvation for sinful men. One day that faith will make that body perfect, like the Lord’s, for my dad will see Him as He is!

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3


  1. Kent Brandenburg says:

    Nice tribute to your father, Don. Thanks.