Jeffrey Johnson’s unexpected death leaves more than a void

  • Tue Nov 8th, 2011 5:18pm
  • News

By Kristi O’Harran Herald Columnist

In our Mill Creek cul-de-sac, Jeffrey Johnson was the neighbor who was always on call if a refrigerator needed to be moved. We’d gather next to Jeff’s white pickup truck where he held court, chatted, wondered how your day went, and really wanted to know what was new at your house.

His unexpected death in August, at 59, left more than a void.

It’s heartbreaking to see his truck parked in front of his house without its engaging driver and his thick brown mustache.

Twice a day, his wife, Sharen Summers, walks their black lab, Murphy. It used to be Jeff we’d see. We look in on her, trying to keep the neighborhood spirit going.

At PCC Natural Markets in Fremont, where he worked, Jeff was known as the idea guy, said Raymond Glandon, store director. Jeff, a produce clerk, was the sort of grocer who told folks which apples tasted the best or which melons were ripe.

“Customers absolutely loved him,” Glandon said. “He took an interest in other people.”

Customers still ask about their missing friend in the produce aisle.

“He was not just a worker,” Glandon said. “He was an excellent person.”

When a fellow employee needed a ride to work, Jeff left his house an hour early to pick the person up. If there was anything he could do to make anyone’s life better, he was there.

Jeff also worked for PCC stores in Edmonds and Seward Park. His grocery knowledge began at Safeway, where he worked while attending Franklin High School. He graduated in 1970.

His mother, Marion, was a stay-at-home mom. His father, Lloyd, was a plastering contractor.

Jeff is survived by his wife, his father, his brother, Bruce Johnson, his aunt, Lois Randall, and cousins Sue Plischke and Scott Randall.

After a long career at Safeway, Jeff and his brother owned First Impressions Stucco and Lathe. At the time, Jeff was known to park his rig outside his house.

During his contractor years, the truck was often loaded sky high with scaffolding.

My husband, Chuck, a sheet metal worker, was always eager to chat with Jeff about where he was working and how the company was going.

In the mid 2000s, there was no more scaffolding on our street. Jeff was recruited back to his first love, the grocery business.

He met Sharen in 1992 at a party. She worked at a mortgage company.

“We just clicked,” Sharen said. “He was refreshingly straight forward.”

Jeff had been married before, but had no children. Sharen married him on May 20, 1995.

“We fixed up the back yard for the wedding,” she said. “We went to Cannon Beach (Ore.) afterwards.”

In 1999, they bought a cabin on Guemes Island. Her husband put many hours into fixing up the A-frame near the water.

“We were going to retire there,” Sharen said. “It’s like a whole other world.”

Jeff also was a sports nut. He played on several baseball teams and had loads of trophies. The back of his team jacket reads “Animals in Action.”

His friend, Larry Holm, met Jeff when they both worked at Safeway in 1979. They started baseball teams between a few of the stores.

“He played catcher, usually,” Holm said. “He was also pretty much the one who got the teams together, was a coach, manager and player.”

When Holm moved into a new house, he wanted to re-create a bookcase Jeff built around a fireplace. He asked Jeff to provide a snapshot or drawing of the project so Holm could have it built.

“Don’t worry about that,” Jeff said. “I’ll just come down and build you one.”

He was always there if anyone needed a hand, Holm said. “He always had a smile.”

Sharen said she misses her hard-working companion who loved jazz, taking rides and eating out.

“Oh my God, he was funny,” she said. “Jeff was good-natured, even tempered, dependable, productive and reliable.”

She never had to make a honey-do list, Sharen said.

Her honey would already be getting everything done.

Kristi O’Harran: 425-339-3451; oharran@heraldnet.com.

Service

A memorial service is planned for Jeffrey Johnson from 4 to 8:30 p.m. Friday at Rosehill Community Center, 304 Lincoln Ave. in Mukilteo. Donations may be made to PCC Farmland Trust Jeff Johnson Memorial Fund at PCC Farmland Trust, 1917 First Ave., Level A, Suite 100, Seattle, WA, 98101.