Family History, Greatest Generation, Memoir, Veterans, WWII


Colonel Leslie H. Johnson  
November 3, 1916 – December 28, 2002

If my father-in-law were alive today, he would be 97 years old. Although he’s no longer with us in body, he lives on in our hearts. Colonel Leslie Harold Johnson was a man’s man, who understood integrity and courageous living.
Puppy-Dog Eyes at three

Dad grew up during the depression. As the oldest of four children, he often worked alongside his father at manual labor to help support the family. Through the years, he regaled us with stories of standing chest-deep in a river to move logs to shore, and how at one point, they put newspapers over the walls of their house to keep the wind out.

He and granddad also worked with the CCCs. During that time, Dad was given the nickname Pistol by someone who thought he was from Pistol City. An online article by Teri Maddox of News-Democrat sheds light on the moniker. 

The coal-mining town of Coulterville must have been a rough-and-tumble place in the late 1800s and early 1900s. People called it “Pistol City.”   “I had an uncle who used to talk about who got killed on this street and who got killed on that street,” said Sam White, 70, of rural Coulterville. “He said everybody carried a gun when they came into town at night.” 

Terry’s dad was not a violent gun-toting guy, but he knew how to stand up for himself and for others. At his funeral, a younger friend remarked that even at 86, he had been the most macho man in the congregation. We figured he had heard  lots of Dad’s stories about flying bombers over Europe during WWII, racing cars and in later years, confronting a would-be robber at his travel trailer door by getting the drop on him. 

Because there was no money for college, the Army Air Corps must have looked good to Dad. He was a career airman and made the most of every opportunity that came his way. He retired with the rank of Colonel from the United States Air Force. With all his accomplishments, he never forgot his humble beginnings nor the fact he didn’t have a college education. Both of his boys had that opportunity. 

Dad & Mo around the time they married

Les Johnson could be tough, but he was also tender and affectionate. He adored his wife, Eloise. She had been his secretary, and with a twinkle in his eye, he’d allude to stealing kisses behind the file cabinet. I often think about Dad riding shotgun in our car and how always at some point in the trip, he’d reach back to pat Mo’s knee. 

                              Even when they were octogenarians, he couldn’t keep his eyes off of her.                                      
Dad and Mo enjoyed people and socializing. After they retired, they were part of a group that dined out, round danced and traveled across the country in their travel trailers. He was quick to tell a joke and usually engaged others in conversation wherever he found himself.
The Johnson family in the early years — He was proud of his boys, Jerry and Terry.
I feel blessed to have been Dad’s daughter-in-law. I guess you could say we had a mutual admiration society, which speaks volumes, considering I came into the family as a package deal – a divorced mother of two. He and Mo took Gary, Maria and me into their hearts completely, as did the rest of the family. I’m proud to be part of the Johnson clan and its rich heritage.
We miss you, Dad, but your high standards of integrity, courage and love still guide us.
Fathers, do not irritate and provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to resentment],
but rear them [tenderly] in the training and discipline and the counsel and admonition of the Lord.
Ephesians 6:4 Amplified Bible