What a life he packed into 88 years! Bob Johnson passed away on April 18, 2021, with Lois, his beloved wife of 65 years, near his side. He was born in North Park, Chicago, in 1932, to Walter and Florence (Sandstedt) Johnson. He first showed his independent-mindedness when, at five years of age, he chose not to attend his parents' Saron Lutheran Church, opting instead to walk three blocks with his five-year-old buddy to the nearby (Swedish) Evangelical Covenant Church. The family moved to Glendale, California, when Bob was nine, though he remained a Cubs fan for life. Bob earned his BS in Engineering at UCLA. He then served for two years in the US Army, working in radio electronics in the radar vans at Aberdeen (Md.) Proving Grounds, before returning to UCLA for an MS He remained an avid, lifelong fan of the Bruins.
Bob met Lois O'Loughlin at a Luther League Bible study and dance when he was 20 and she was 16, and he pursued her until she realized how much she loved him. They married and raised three children, each of whom he loved dearly and bragged about often. He always felt he could have done a better job of parenting, yet he was proud of how his children turned out, each successful in their own way and all lovers of people. Bob began his career with Collins Radio Company. With Collins and, later, Rockwell, he designed 14 patented electromechanical filters, presented uncounted papers at Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers meetings, and wrote the captivating(!) Mechanical Filters in Electronics.
In 1988, he and Lois traveled to Helsinki, Finland, for his induction as a Fellow of the IEEE – a recognition of his profound influence and many important personal and professional relationships in the field. When Collins moved to Newport Beach, Bob joined the YMCA to exercise during lunch hour. For a few years, he ran through the nearby hills and valleys. Along the way, he developed a great passion for track and field. He took family members to numerous track meets and Olympic trials over the decades. Eventually, his competitive spirit led him to play full-court, outdoor basketball at the Y, which he continued to do with players of all ages until he was 82.
When Bob and Lois moved to Tustin, they joined Trinity United Presbyterian Church and a new young-marrieds Sunday School called The King's Class. A person of deep faith and a lover of theology, Bob served Trinity as an elder and helped the church form its Community Outreach Committee. Through this committee, Bob helped Trinity and The King's Class become much more involved with the wider community, from greater Santa Ana to the hills above Tijuana, Mexico. Bob and Lois got involved in civil rights protests in the early '60s. Bob began volunteer work as a checker when he joined the Orange County Fair Housing Council in 1966. He joined the board of directors in 1968 and remained on the board until his death. He co-founded the Community Housing Corporation, a non-profit that develops housing for low-income families.
Through connections at Cal State Fullerton, Bob launched a project wherein he collected the oral histories of 22 Blacks who moved to or grew up in Orange County in the 20th century. This resulted in his co-authorship of A Different Shade of Orange: Voices of Orange County, California, Black Pioneers. Bob also served on the board of the Santa Ana Black Historical Society. He began developing Parkinson's Disease before he could publish his magnum opus on mid-20th century Black migration into Orange County, a substantial historical work his daughter Karen is editing and seeking a publisher for. Although Bob never wanted recognition for his work, he appreciated the OC Human Relations Council Legacy Award granted to him and Dorothy Mulkey in 2014 and the Fair Housing Volunteer of the Year award from the Community Relations Conference of Southern California in 1981.
Bob never thought he could save the world; rather, he believed in tackling doable projects – ones that assisted and empowered those marginalized from positions of power and wealth. Bob's way of doing things was moderation, but he had a backbone of steel. He had a profound faith, but he took to the apostle James's dictum that "faith without works is dead."
"Those grateful not only for their existence, but also for Bob's inspiration, include his predeceased grandson Nathan Bayati; his children Christelle (Adnan) Bayati, Karen Johnson (Bert Verrips), and Steven Johnson (Ellen Davis); and his grandchildren Jennah Bayati, Sydney Johnson, Kyle Verrips, and Maria Johnson Davis. He is also survived by his best friend and wife, Lois. In lieu of flowers, Bob would want you to stick up for others. A celebration of life is planned for June.
Remembering Robert A. Johnson
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