Steamboat Springs lost a quiet star Feb. 4, 2005, when Larry Johnson died. He was 60.
Larry was the 2001 John Fetcher Honorary Sustaining Member Award winner for his untiring and inventive work with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, including developing the necessary computer software to record and publish the Nordic Combined results quickly; his software is now used throughout the U.S to record Nordic Event results. He also received the Friend of Education Award from the Steamboat Springs School District in 1992, 1993, and 1995 for his work in promoting the half-cent sales tax and serving on the Technology Commission for the Routt School District for five years. Larry was the quintessential volunteer and did it effortlessly, quietly, and enthusiastically for the Steamboat community. He also contributed time to the formation and development of the Routt County Riders, a local bicycle advocacy group and to the development of opportunities for a youth mountain bike racing team.
Larry Johnson was born in 1944 in Los Angeles, Calif., and grew up in Oak Park, Ill., and Lake Delavan, Wis. He received his bachelor's degree in engineering from Northwestern University in 1968. He worked at the National Security Agency in Washington, D.C., breaking radio code in the Vietnam War era. In 1972, he received his master's degree in computer science from the University of Maryland. In essence, he was a computer geek before anyone knew what it was to be a computer geek.
He was an avid Snipe Class sailboat racer in the 1970s and became the director of the U.S. Sailing Center on Association Island near Watertown, N.Y., in 1976. While at Association Island, Larry developed the Standard Sailing Instructions with U.S Olympic Gold Medalist Bill Benson, and those racing rules still are used by the International Sailing Federation. In 1980, Larry was the lead official at the U.S. Olympic Sailing Trials in Newport, R.I., and was selected to officiate at the Olympics that year.
In 1974, Larry moved to Aspen and worked in condominium management where he met his wife, Kristine. Larry moved to Gunnison in 1980, where he directed computer operations for Gunnison County. His association with American Fundware, from Gunnison, led to his move to Steamboat Springs in 1985 with his wife and infant son, Ethan. Larry worked with American Fundware until he joined SportStalker in the late 1980s as the information technology manager. In 1994, he started his own computer consulting and software development business and operated the business until his death.
Larry was an avid biker and cross-country skier, commuting to work on his bicycle on a daily basis, regardless of the weather. He was a founding member and supporter of the Noon Bike Ride Club and the inspiration for the oft-repeated phrase, "Johnson, Stop!"
Larry was a privately spiritual person who found peace and joy just from being outdoors. Weekly, he could be found in front of his radio, as an avid listener of the Prairie Home Companion. He enjoyed the sublime pleasure of reading a good book and was known to hop on his bike to bear a book to friends across town.
He adored and treasured Ethan, and in fun created a family philosophy borrowed from a crusty Norwegian he met in Aspen: "Don't let the fear of being lost interfere with the joy of not knowing where you are."
Larry's last year on this earth was one of the best for him, his family, and friends, all of whom enjoyed his sense of humor and almost childlike delight in everything he did; organizing an all Johnson Family Reunion in Steamboat in September 2004, some "first" mountain bike rides on the Monarch Crest Trail and others; his enthusiasm for Ethan's semester in outdoor education with NOLS in the Southwest and Mexico; his garden and beloved garlic patch, cooking up a storm in his kitchen, his work, meeting new friends, and always, his daily repeated query to almost anyone who would listen; "Wanna go for a (bike) ride?"
Larry was preceded in death by his brother, Peter, his birth father, Isadore Koblik, and his mother, Kay Johnson Sweeney. He is survived by his brothers, Mark Johnson and sister-in-law Christine of Los Angeles, and Eric Johnson of Bridgeport, Conn.; his father, Art Johnson, and stepmother, Sally, of Lake Geneva, Wis.; his beloved son, Ethan, and his friend, Kristine.
Happy riding, friend; may the trails always be smooth and the wind always be at your back.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be sent to Routt County Riders, P.O. Box 770094, Steamboat Springs, CO 80477.
Routt County Riders plans to build a new trail on Emerald Mountain this summer and dedicate it to Larry, in tribute to his many contributions to the sport of road and mountain biking.