Donald Johns

April 7, 1928 ~ November 29, 2021 (age 93)


Donald Johns passed on November 29, 2021 at his home in Brentwood, CA after a brief illness of stomach cancer. He was 93 years old. A longtime resident of Martinez, CA, Donald was born in St. Petersburg, Florida on April 7, 1928 to Adolphus (Rudolph) Johns and Evelyn Florice Collins. He was preceded in death by his wife of 61 years, Mildred Louise Johns, and brothers Richard, Lindy, and Robert. He is survived by his daughters Karen Marie Sexton, Kathleen Dawn Kemper, Kimberly Ann Yingling (Raymond); his grandchildren Jory Thomas Kemper (Holly), Nicholas Don Yingling, Melissa Dawn Howry (Daniel); and his great grandchildren Ryder Howry, Cooper Howry and Skylar Howry.

After working in a movie theatre and grocery store in Fort Myers, Donald decided to join the Navy at the age of 17. In 1945, he left Florida and was stationed in Norfolk, Virginia; Newport, Rhode Island; San Diego, CA; Alameda, CA; and Concord, CA. He served our country for twenty years before retiring from the Navy in 1965 as a Chief Petty Officer. After his Navy career he worked for over twenty-five years as a operating engineer for Contra Costa County. Starting at a single hospital, he finished with his own maintenance route all over the county and was known for his dedication, attendance, and inventive solutions. For fifteen years he also took evening shifts at Sears, working in the hardware department. He retired at the age of 62, but remained active, mentally and physically, for another thirty years.

Donald met his wife, Mildred, at a friend’s home in Duluth, Minnesota. It was a gathering where young men and women were dancing, and shortly after they were married on July 3, 1954. They enjoyed vacationing with their girls in Iron River, Wisconsin, where Mildred was born, and later in life they built a log cabin there. They shared a love for bowling and bowled for many years at Paddock Bowl, making lifelong friends. Forever the mechanic, he was often found with his friend John Gates at the local car dealers, checking out the latest models. He was a shrewd negotiator, giving the salesmen a run for their money, but was also known for his generosity, helping family and strangers alike. Perhaps most of all, he will be remembered for his affable demeanor, his stories, his willingness to talk to anyone stranger or friend, and his sense of humor.

Donald was a self taught harmonica player, he taught himself songs by hearing the tune, he never mastered reading music but he definitely was a master at entertaining everyone with his wonderful harmonica playing.  He was asked many times to play a tune at various events at his assisted living complex and he enjoyed it immensely.  His great grandchildren Ryder, Cooper, and Skylar loved to listen to him play and they’ve also been known to play themselves.

    With his life, Donald taught us how to stay level on rough seas. He learned to swim in the ocean and, as a child on Sanibel Island, lept from his roof into the ocean. One day the tide came in faster than expected, and a large fin broke the surface. Donald and his two brothers swam home from sandbar to sandbar, the hammerhead shark always following, always circling. It would not be his last brush with death. At the age of 54, walking to his car, he noticed pain in his chest and arm. He was rushed to Oaknoll Navel Hospital in Oakland . There, during a dye test to look for blocked arteries he coded on the table. Floating over his own body, he experienced a dark tunnel, a green field of grass, and a feeling of indescribable love. He saw others waiting for him and at that moment, the doctor pounded on Donald’s chest, restarting his heart. It was not yet his time. And for that, his many friends and family are still grateful.

    Donald, we love and miss you. We hope you’re resting after such a long swim home

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