James “Jim” Johnson, age 90, of Elkhart, Kansas died January 12, 2015 at Morton County Special Care Unit in Elkhart, Kansas. He was born November 28, 1924 in Cherryvale, Kansas, the son of Lewis H. and Mary Marie (Shields) Johnson.
The summer of 1943 was a busy one for James Calvin Johnson, known as Jim or Jimmy. He graduated from High School, he and Anna Lee Sellmansberger were married on July 3, 1943, and like so many other young men, he joined the Army as a private. Jim spent the next 26 years in the service; first in the Army, then in the Army Air Corps during WW II. In the war, stationed in England, he was a S/Sgt. Radio-operator-gunner on a B-17 Bomber with the 100th Bomb Group. He returned to the states in April, 1946. When he finally left the army, it took him only three months to decide that he liked military life. In July of 1947 he joined the United States Air Force in its very infancy, since the United States Air Force did not become a separate military service until September 18, 1947. Jim then proceeded to obtain his commission, become a pilot, and climbed through the ranks finally retiring as a Lt. Col. on July 31, 1969. He was stationed in France and Germany besides many US states. He flew to many countries including Italy, Turkey, and Japan. He had many experiences during his military career, some horrific and some humorous, like at the end of his flight training while stationed in Enid, OK. He had completed his requirements and was awaiting graduation. He was scheduled to fly co-pilot and paid little attention to the pilot’s navigation, who got them lost. Jim took radio bearings and fixed them in SE Kansas, then turned for home. After moving to Elkhart, one day Jim realized that he had been flying over Elkhart and area on that flight.
One of Jim’s highest honors was receiving the Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity 1st class from the President of Italy in 1956 for flying in provisions for Italians after a natural disaster left some villages cut off for months from outside help. The flight was a dangerous one but Jim and another pilot asked to fly the supplies in and drop them to the villagers. He received many ribbons and medals throughout his career.
After his military career he lived in Springfield, MO; Ozark, MO; and Grove, OK. While in Grove he and a friend invented and built a huge triangular ground air sock for the local airport. He worked for various companies and also owned and operated a hardware & auto parts store in Ozark.
Jim moved to Elkhart in 2010 with his daughter, Cindee and her husband Ed, who is the pastor at First Baptist Church. He moved into the Morton County Care Center in June 2013.
Survivors include children: Sussy-Rose Shields of Wilton, NH, Cindee Richards and husband Ed of Elkhart, KS, Jim Johnson and wife Sandra of Fordland, MO, and Carol Marshal of Springfield, MO; grandchildren: Steven Hiatt and wife Karen of Lafayette, CA, Juli Routon of Austin, TX, Jamie Richards of Sperry, OK, Brandon Richards and wife Kelly of Georgetown, TX, Trent Richards and wife Amber of Kyle, TX, Ben Johnson of Seattle, WA, Sam Johnson and wife Shannon of Goldsborough, NC, Sarah Johnson and Chris of Springfield, MO, Michael DeWitt and Barbie of Springfield, MO, and Bert DeWitt of Ozark, MO; great-grandchildren: Kaylin, Natalie, Victoria Hiatt, Sylas, Titus, and Abigail Sogn, Kirsten Welch, Katherine Torrance, Jamelle Holmes, Janie Johnson, Sofea Johnson, Tobey Johnson, Mikey and Ruby DeWitt, and Benny DeWitt; and a host of nieces and nephews.
Jim is preceded in death by his wife, Ann on May 20, 2005; his parents, three brothers, and one sister.
A memorial service will be held at a later date with inurnment at the Missouri Veterans Cemetery in Springfield, Missouri. Arrangements are in care of Garnand Funeral Home, PO Box 854, Elkhart, KS 67950.