Steven Curtis Johnson
You couldn’t mistake his profile, which he earned one day out on Sparta’s Perch Lake. Steve and his younger brother Mark were paddling a canoe in search of golf balls to sell for extra money. Someone called “fore!” Mark saw the ball coming and ducked, but Steve ended up with that signature bump in his nose.
Then there was the time he was ice fishing up in Minnesota with old buddy Lowell. Steve hopped on the snowmobile, grabbed the throttle with one of his worn, scarred hands, and cranked it wide open. His joy in feeling the cold air against his face…being legally blind he hadn’t felt that since his younger motorcycle days.
A million moments and cherished memories, far too many to share. In the end, no one would dispute it was fifty-five years well-lived.
Steven Curtis Johnson was born in La Crosse, November 10, 1963 to Curtis and Alyce Johnson of Sparta. He was the second of six children and certainly held his rank among the siblings. A small man with a big attitude garnered the fitting nickname “Stubby,” which stuck with him. A 1982 graduate of Sparta Senior High School, Steve was a standout trumpet player in the band. He worked at Ted and Fred’s grocery, cutting his hands a million times on the box cutters he used in stocking the shelves, and earned enough money to buy a Dodge Colt. After high school, Steve pursued a degree in radiography from Western Wisconsin Technical Institute, until he lost his sight and his life changed forever. After enduring innumerable medical hardships, Steve received the gift of life from an anonymous donor hero in 1991. Steve fought to regain a new sense of normal and enrolled in UW-La Crosse, graduating in 1997 with Bachelor’s in Community Health Education. Steve dedicated his second chance at life to giving back to his community. He served on various boards and committees working to improve the lives of others around him, including: North American Squirrel Association, Lions Club of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, La Crosse Municipal Transit, and the Wisconsin Council for the Blind & Visually Impaired. Steve worked tirelessly for the County of La Crosse in various capacities, most recently for the Aging and Resource Disability Center. The ARDC staff were his second family, and he very much enjoyed spending his days with his colleagues. Steve was proud of living independently and being a homeowner. However, he was most proud of his Black Labrador Leader Dogs, who served as his eyes and best friends for three decades, and allowed him to live a full life of meaning and gratitude. Steve was preceded in death by his parents and Leader Dogs Thor and Ripley.
Looking back now, Steve’s favorite Bible verse seems so fitting:“Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1)In the very end, whether we can physically see with our eyes or not, we fall back on our faith. In one of Steve’s final Facebook posts he asked us all to “try to understand what is really important in life. Don’t be too proud to ask for help. We all want to be independent, but let’s strive for interdependence, as we may all need each other at some point in our lives. Too often it is hard for us to just tell those around us how much we appreciate them. With that said, I love you all…”
Special thanks to the medical staff at UW Health, Gundersen Lutheran Hospital and Hillview Health Care that cared for Steve.
A celebration of life will be hosted by his siblings at Red Pines Bar & Grill in Brice Prairie on Sunday, April 14, from 2-5 pm. Steve wanted a casual, fun gathering and asked visitors to come dressed in their favorite rock t-shirt, Wisconsin sports gear, or a Jimmy Buffett-style Hawaiian shirt. Steve asked that donations be made to the following organizations that were dear to his heart: North American Squirrel Association, Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired, or the La Crosse Lions Charities – Leader Dog.