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Gary E. Johnson, retired engineering firm partner, dies of coronavirus

Gary Johnson
Gary Johnson

Gary E. Johnson, a retired partner in an engineering firm who was a past president of the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute Alumni Association, died of coronavirus May 2 at Dove House in Westminster. The Sykesville resident was 83.

His son, Gary E. Johnson Jr., said his father had fallen and undergone hip surgery and contracted the coronavirus while recuperating.

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Born in Baltimore and raised on Evergreen Avenue in Hamilton, he was the son of Emil Johnson, a security officer for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and his wife, Lillian. Mr. Johnson was the last survivor of his seven siblings.

Mr. Johnson met his future wife, Lillian Chumley, when she was a cashier at a Fells Point grocery store and he was a bag boy. They lived on Marietta Avenue in Northeast Baltimore and later in the Soldiers Delight section of Reisterstown. Several years ago he moved to the Fairhaven Retirement Community.

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Mr. Johnson was a 1955 graduate of the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute and remained an active alumnus. He served as president of its alumni association and helped raise money to augment teacher salaries at the school.

“My father was so loyal, he practically bled Poly,” said his son, who lives in Eldersburg.

“Poly has lost a highly respected, well liked and one of the school’s biggest supporters,” said an Polytechnic alumni statement. “Gary was a real gentleman and an exceptional Poly boy to the end.”

Mr. Johnson immediately joined the engineering firm of Henry Adams, then located on St. Paul Street in the Old Goucher neighborhood. He rose to become its vice president.

“Gary was outgoing,” said a retired co-worker, Edward “Ed” Sugg, who lives in Kingsville. “Everybody in the engineering community knew Gary Johnson.”

Mr. Johnson enrolled at the Johns Hopkins University night school and spent 11 years earning a degree in mechanical engineering. He also served in the Army National Guard during this period.

He worked in the fields of heating and air conditioning and specialized in hospital work. He worked on the University of Maryland medical campus in downtown Baltimore.

“He practically crawled through every inch of the buildings there,” his son said.

Mr. Johnson was part of a team that won a contract for the Wake Forest Medical Center. He also worked on Johns Hopkins medical campus buildings in East Baltimore and was on the original design team for what is now MedStar Harbor Hospital.

He later left the Henry Adams firm and joined other partners, including Dick Mueller, Gene Nerf, and Alex Petrlik. at Mueller and Associates, an engineering firm then based on Joh Avenue in Southwest Baltimore.

“My father was gregarious,” said his son. “He was a mood changer when he walked into a room. He was a comforting presence.”

He added" “He had a great memory for names. He knew your kids’ names and where they went to school. He was the kind of person who would say, ‘How can I make your day better.’”

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Mr. Johnson retired in 2006.

“After my father got his degree from Hopkins, he found he had extra time at night," the younger Mr. Johnson said. "He felt as if he needed his invest his energy in the community. He coached Harford Park Little League for 15 years.”

He also became involved in a professional organization and was a past president of the Baltimore chapter of American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers. He was later named a fellow of the society.

He also played golf with friends on Fridays at Pine Ridge. He was a Baltimore Colts season ticket holder who bought Orioles season seats after the Colts move to Indianapolis.

In addition to his son, survivors include another son, Gregory E. Johnson of Westminster; two daughters, Linda Cubeas of Georgia and Deborah Ann Trageser of Timonium; seven grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. His wife of 49 years, a homemaker who often prepared meals for her husband’s business associates, died in 2007.

Due to the current health crisis, the funeral service will be private.

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