Around the Town with Mayor Steve: Robert “Bob” JohnsonShare This +
Longtime Oak Creek resident Robert “Bob” Johnson passed away last week at the age of 94. I was fortunate enough to live next to Bob for many years, and he was my guest in the city’s Fourth of July parade in 2012. We honored our World War Two veterans in that year’s parade and I’ll always remember Bob telling me how cold he was at the end of it, despite being very warm that year, with temperatures in the 90’s with high humidity. We had Bob sit in the front seat, with the air conditioning blasting on him along the entire route. While the rest of us were sweating, Bob was as cool as a cucumber, and he was so happy to ride in that parade, and enjoyed the great reception he received from all the residents.
Bob grew up on a farm near Escanaba, Michigan, and left to serve our country in the Navy at the age of 16. He spent the next 21 years in the Navy, seeing combat action in the Pacific during World War Two. A decorated veteran, Bob was buried in his military uniform, and often would remark to his neighbors and friends that he could still fit in it, so many years later. Because he left high school to serve, Bob never achieved his high school diploma, but in a special ceremony recently, his old high school honored him with an honorary diploma, for the incredible sacrifice he had made.
After his military service, Bob worked at AC Delco in Oak Creek, where he would eventually retire, moving into small engine repair, both at his home workshop on Verdev Avenue, and at Milwaukee Area Technical
College. Bob’s nickname was the “lawnmower man” and he was very well known in the community as the go-to guy for any problems with a lawnmower. I can remember walking over to his house, many times, to talk about the city, along with some of his great friends who would gather in lawn chairs in his garage, often sharing a beer, or a Brandy Manhattan.
Bob was also well known for his Christmas Eve appearances as Santa Claus, showing up on even the coldest nights at many doors in the neighborhood, bringing presents for all the kids. His wonderful spirit, and his sense of community and helping others, would eventually lead to Bob being selected as Oak Creek Citizen of the Year in 1986, along with his wife Stacia. Bob was an active member of the St. Matthews Parish in Oak Creek, and also served for many years on the Parks and Recreation Committee.
He was a great neighbor, but his real contributions were in the tremendous life he lived, and his impact on everyone who knew him.