Willie Oliver Johnson, born January 15, 1940, was a 30-year Army veteran, entrepreneur, mentor, coach, and friend to many in Sierra Vista, his home for the past 43 years. He passed away August 21, 2021 surrounded by those he loved in his Tucson home. He was 81.
Born in Polk County, Florida, he and his mother Bernice lived with his Great Grandmother, Queen Johnson, until his mother married Harmon Mann and moved to upstate New York. Willie grew up in Ithaca, where his younger sister, Alice Elizabeth Mann, was born. His stepfather Harmon was a pastry chef and taught him the joys of cooking, paving the way for his mastery of his trademark specialties, lemon meringue pie and banana pudding, at a very early age.
He entered the Army in 1959 and while in Korea, met and married Chong Cha Cho. That was the beginning of a 30+ year adventure that spanned several continents and countries and eventually landed them in Sierra Vista with three daughters. In addition to ascending to the rank of SGM in the US Army, Willie was an integral part of the community and participated in any event that involved his girls.
Upon retiring from the Army in 1989 after 30 years of service, he was still restless with energy, and went on to start Desert Eagle Security. His love of community led him to work at the Sierra Vista Middle School, and his passion for mentoring led him to serve as a basketball, wrestling, and football coach. After 20 years at the helm of Desert Eagle, he retired once again, and focused on what would be the most important chapter of his life, his grandchildren - Joaquin and Gracie. He would pick them up from school every single Friday and they would roam around town, eat things they shouldn’t, and cause a little trouble.
He was a devoted grandfather, father, husband, and friend. A man of few words but boundless wisdom, he saw the goodness in everyone, believed in second chances, made friends everywhere he went, and always put family first.
He is survived by his daughters, Meshell, Patricia and Raul Barcelo, Ali Johnson-Levy and Don Levy and his grandchildren Robert, Joaquin, and Gracie. He is preceded in passing by his loving wife Chong Cha and his sister Alice. We were ever so fortunate to have the privilege and honor of calling him Dad. Funeral services and visitation will be held on Saturday, August 28 from 1 to 4PM at Jensen’s Sierra Vista Mortuary, 5515 S. Hwy. 92, Sierra Vista. We will follow with a celebration of his life from 4:30 to 6:30PM at Pizzeria Mimosa, 4755 E. Neapolitan Way, Hereford. In lieu of flowers, please give to any organization that supports our nation’s veterans.
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