Dennis (Denny) Lee Johnson

Dennis (Denny) Lee Johnson, age 86, passed away on Jan. 15, 2024 at his home in New Richmond, Wis. Denny was born Feb. 4, 1937 in Spirit, Wis., to Lawrence and Mildred (Scheller) Johnson. He went to Rib Lake High School and then on to a year at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point where he pursued studies to become a band director. He then moved to Chicago seeking employment, and later relocated to Minneapolis where he met his future wife, Kathleen (Elliott) Johnson. He subsequently managed several Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants in the Twin Cities area, and was taught by Col. Harland Sanders himself how to pressure cook the colonel’s special recipe for fried chicken.

In 1970, an opportunity arose to buy LaNou’s Restaurant – and later the Uptown Restaurant – in Tomahawk, which Denny and Kathy ran for nine years. In 1975 they moved into their newly built home on the very land where Denny was born, and which his grandfather, Amandus Johnson of Sweden, homesteaded the 160 acres granted him in return for developing the land. In 1979, Denny went into farming, utilizing the original barn and outbuildings constructed on the homestead. After his short-lived farming adventure during the farm crisis of the early ‘80s, Denny applied his business skills and creative talents by remodeling and opening a craft mall that Kathy managed, as well as the bar next door that he managed. Being a naturally gifted and generous teacher, Denny worked for Lincoln Hills School and NCTI, teaching teenage and even blind students about food preparation. With all of his food service industry experience, he was hired to run the Tomahawk Elementary, Junior, and Senior High School lunch programs. When their two grandchildren, Emily and Hannah, were born, Denny and Kathy decided to relocate to New Richmond, Wis., to be near them, and where they would live out their remaining years.

While living in New Richmond, Denny offered his handyman talents as a maintenance man at two hotels in Hudson, Wis., as well as townhomes in New Richmond. He also volunteered his talents at the New Richmond Heritage Center where Denny did a wide variety of tasks in addition to being a docent for field trips, including his daughter Heidi’s first, second, and third grade classes over the years. As a STEP worker he helped students in Heidi’s classroom, and even used his musical talents to write and record a song for one of her class’s musicals. Denny loved watching all his wild animal “friends” that would visit daily to eat the treats he provided. He was an avid card and cribbage player who was hard to beat! Denny was a self-taught painter and could play the piano by ear. He loved entertaining friends and family with his great cooking, and enjoyed spending time at his cabin and boating on Lake Nokomis near Tomahawk. In short, Denny was a loving, generous, and kind hearted man of SO many talents!

Denny is survived by his two children – Lawrence Johnson of Cedar City, Utah, and Heidi Johnson (Mark) Weyer of Stillwater, Minn. He is further survived by his two grandchildren – Emily Swetlik of Woodville, Wis., and Hannah Swetlik of Chicago, Ill.; his siblings – Gordon Johnson of Appleton, Wis., and Kenneth (Theresa) Johnson of Spirit, Wis.; and many cousins, nephews, and nieces.

Denny is preceded in death by his parents, his wife, his brother, Eugene Johnson, and sister, Janet Kring Schopper. Celebration of Life services were held at Bakken-Young Funeral & Cremation Services, 728 S. Knowles Ave., New Richmond, Wis., on Jan. 20 at 2 p.m., with visitation at 1 p.m. and refreshments following the service; and Spirit United Methodist Church, 86 and W. Knox Rd., Omega, Wis., Jan. 21 at 2 p.m. with visitation at 1 p.m. and refreshments following the service. Arrangements were with Bakken-Young Funeral & Cremation Services.

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