On June 9, 2020, Dick Johnson passed away in beautiful Traverse City, Michigan, where he had been living since early April. Northern Michigan, or “Up North,” has always held a special place in Dick’s heart, and his family could not have chosen a more peaceful setting for him to spend his final moments of ‘a life fully lived and loved’.
Dick was born in Wellesley, Massachusetts on October 2, 1953 and grew up in New Canaan, Connecticut with his older sister, Elaine, and parents, Helen and Stan. He spent his high school years leading the band in holiday parades, performing in school musicals, and playing football for a year. Despite being a self-proclaimed nerd, Dick had a love for life that led him to take a gap year in Norway following high school graduation in 1971.
After returning from Norway, Dick moved to Greencastle, Indiana to attend DePauw University, where he graduated in 1976 with a degree in political science. Despite his love for politics, Dick continued pursuing his passion for performance, music, and theatre throughout college. He was a member of DePauw’s singing group, the Collegians, and wrote the famous musical ‘Frat House’ on the DePauw stage (but it never made it to Broadway!). He was also a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity where he created lifelong friends and memories (and maybe got into a little mischief along the way?). During his senior year, Dick was the News Director at the campus radio station, WGRE, which eventually landed him an internship at WTHR-TV in Indianapolis. After graduation, they offered Dick his first reporting job. On the first day, as he told it, they handed him a microphone, assigned him a photographer, and sent him out on his first assignment. The rest is history…
In 1977, Dick moved to Dallas where he spent the next five years as an anchor and reporter at KDFW-TV. Within the first year of being on air, he was voted one of the city’s most eligible bachelors until he married his college love, Lauren Meurisse, in 1978.
After Dallas, Dick and Lauren returned to the midwest to Lauren’s home turf in Chicago where Dick began his career at ABC-7 in 1982. For over twenty years, Dick honed his skills covering breaking stories and working in one of the most competitive news markets in the nation. It was during these formidable years that Dick realized he had found the perfect career: one that allowed him to live out his passion for politics, performance, and compelling story-telling.
In 2002, Dick joined the NBC-5 team as an anchor and reporter. Quoting some of his colleagues:
“[Dick] was an old school journalist.”
“He gave every story a Dick Johnson signature. You knew he wrote it, and it made you listen.”
“Just facts, fairness, and great writing.”
“He worked tirelessly to uncover the truth for Chicago.”
Throughout his career, Dick was the recipient of many prestigious awards including a Chicago Emmy Award, the duPont-Columbia University Award, and the Peabody Award.
Some of the highlights of his career were traveling on Air Force Two with George H. W. Bush during the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan, covering the famine in Ethiopia during the 80s, the return of the Iranian hostages at West Point, and zeroing in on the Chicago ties to Gianni Versace’s serial killer, Andrew Cunanan.
In his personal life, the theatre remained a passion for Dick well beyond his college years. He was fortunate enough to find an outlet as an actor, producer, and writer in several local community productions, where he formed many close friendships with people who all shared the same love of performing. His presence on stage was always larger than life as seen through his starring roles like ‘Carlos the Wedding Planner’ in A Community Revue Production and Franklin Roosevelt in Annie. And we can’t forget about his love of jazz. Dick enjoyed countless performances at Elmhurst College’s Jazz Festival and other jazz clubs throughout the Chicagoland area.
Above all, the best role Dick ever had was being a dad. An Indian Guide chief, a Little League coach, a ski-partner on daddy-daughter ski trips, or just being himself in day-to-day activities, Dick enjoyed all the challenges and joys of raising his three incredible children: Griffin (33), Parker (31), and Maclayne (27). They loved him for being a ‘kid at heart’ and knew they could always count on him for support, wisdom, and a hearty laugh. A few months before he passed, Dick and Lauren reflected on their children and were grateful they had grown up to be such passionate, loving, curious, hardworking, honest, and independent adults.
A few of the most joyful highlights of the last seven years was Griffin’s marriage to Brooke and the birth of granddaughter, Fiona (4), and grandson, Leland (2).
One of the most important people in Dick’s life was his older sister Elaine. As adults, Dick and Elaine formed a relationship that transcended family, one full of love and respect for each other. A few years ago they were fortunate to go to Norway to meet Dick’s Norwegian host family and visit the spots that played such an important role in their family’s Norwegian ancestry.
We treasure our memories and feel so blessed he was our father, grandfather, brother, husband, friend, and mentor. We will forever carry with us his most important lessons to ‘live life to the fullest’ and ‘be sure to stop and smell the roses.’
As you go through this virtual memorial and celebration of life, we know you will agree that Dick’s life was indeed ‘fully lived and loved’...
The following video has been put together to create a virtual service in which a few of Dick's closest family and friends share their stories and words about their relationship over the years. We invite you to view it in one sitting whenever you're ready to smile, laugh, and hopefully learn something new about this incredible man.
The following photo galleries represent different time periods of Dick's life as well as the people and places that meant everything to him. Click on any photo to scroll through each individual album.
Dick & Lauren
The Five Of Us
Family & Friends
We have set up a donation page with the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation to help support their mission to find effective treatments and a cure for pulmonary fibrosis.
Please help spread disease awareness by sharing this link with your family and friends so we can support the pulmonary fibrosis community and help create a compassionate environment for other patients and their families.
Together we can help those living with pulmonary fibrosis and the families of those we have lost.
We would love to hear your memories, see your pictures, and read your kind words.