Former city manager dies at 88A memorial service was held Sept. 30 for John R. Johnson, who ran the Palo Alto Medical Foundation for more than two decades and served as city manager of Menlo Park during the boom years of the early 1960s. He died Sept. 17 at The Sequoias in Portola Valley, where he resided and where the service was held. He was 88.
A nationally respected health-care administrator, Mr. Johnson was an active community volunteer and dedicated Stanford alumnus. He was devoted to his family, especially to his wife, Phyllis, to whom he was married for 66 years until her death last year, the family said. He loved to travel, play tennis and dominoes, and spend time with his granddaughters.
Mr. Johnson was born in Greeley, Colorado, on Oct. 20, 1923, the son of the Rev. Rector and Elsie Bales Johnson. As the son of a Methodist minister, he moved frequently as a child, from Colorado to Arizona and eventually to San Jose, California, when he was in high school. He met his future wife, Phyllis Hackman, at the First United Methodist Church youth group.
After graduating from San Jose High School in 1941, Mr. Johnson entered Stanford University, where he majored in political science. After Pearl Harbor was attacked, he joined the U.S. Navy and was sent to officer training school. In 1944 he was commissioned as an ensign, was married in Asbury Park, New Jersey, and headed for Guam, where he served on a minesweeper, the USS Oracle.
After the war, he returned to Stanford and received a bachelor's degree in political science in 1946. In 1947 he received a fellowship in public affairs from the Coro Foundation in San Francisco.
From 1952 to 1964, he worked for the city of Menlo Park as assistant city manager and then as city manager. Menlo Park was in the midst of the post-war boom, and during his management tenure, the city expanded its boundaries and built a new library and police station.
In 1964, Mr. Johnson went to work for the Palo Alto Medical Clinic as executive administrator. Over the next 23 years, as doctors transitioned from house calls to managed care, he presided over the clinic's growth into the Palo Alto Medical Foundation.
In 1987 he became vice president of administration for the foundation. He retired in 1991 but continued to serve on the board of directors for several years. He also served as president of the Medical Group Management Association and the American Association of Ambulatory Health Care, and was a fellow of the American College of Medical Practice Executives.
Mr. Johnson was a fervent Stanford booster and a generous community volunteer, the family said. He served as president of the Stanford Alumni Association, as a member of the "chain gang" at Stanford football games, and as a docent in the Stanford Athletic Hall of Fame.
He served for 32 years on the board of directors of Channing House and received a the Lifetime of Achievement award from Avenidas.
He is survived by children Steven Johnson of Petaluma and Kristina Johnson of Truckee.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Coro Foundation, 601 Montgomery St., Suite 800, San Francisco, CA 94111; or the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, 795 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA 94301.
Visit tinyurl.com/Johnson-917 for more information and to leave a remembrance on the Almanac's Lasting Memories website.