Lt. Col J.Loren Johnson was born to James and Signe Johnson of Letcher, South Dakota, June 20, 1935. He died on August 29, 2021, having lived in Estes Park, CO, since 1994.
His love of music became evident at a very early age. In the summer of 1953, he lived and studied with famed trumpeter, Don Jacoby, in Chicago. After graduating from highschool at Huron, SD, he earned BA degrees in both Music and English at South Dakota State University (SDSU). He went on to earn an MS in Education, while serving as assistant conductor of the SDSU Band. During those six years, part of “The Big Band” era, he led and played trumpet in the Collegiates Orchestra, thus earning enough to pay for all of his college expenses.
Beginning in 1956, he served in the United States Air Force (USAF) as the Commander and Conductor of Air Force Bands throughout the country for 28 very rewarding and enjoyable years. His first assignment was with the USAF Drum and Bugle Corps in Washington, DC. Next came assignments at March AFB near Riverside, CA; and at Warner Robbins AFB in Georgia.
His four-and-a-half years spent leading the USAF Southern Command Band, based in the Canal Zone, were the most interesting of his career. He took this 45-piece band, with its subsidiary performing groups, all over South and Central America, giving command performances for the regimes of every country, many of them repeatedly, as well as good-will tours arranged by the US State Department.
Returning stateside in 1970, he commanded and conducted AF bands at Lowry AFB in Denver and Wright-Patterson AFB near Dayton, OH, culminating in his 17 very fulfilling years with the 65-piece Strategic Air Command Band at Offutt AFB near Omaha.
In addition to leading his Southern Command Bands playing before all of the presidents in South and Central America, his stateside bands played before all of the US Presidents from Eisenhower to Reagan; but more importantly, he treasured all of his relationships with the fine musicians with whom he served.
Loren and his wife, Lynette, moved to Estes Park in 1994, where he was happy to be playing in the EP Chamber Orchestra, the Highland Brass, the Kings of Swing, the Estes Park Jazz Big Band and the Estes Park Village Band, where Chuck Varilek generously shared the podium with him. Loren also directed the Shepherd of the Mountains Lutheran Church choir, his home church.
Loren and his wife, Lynette, were happily married for 63 years, having met at SDSU during Band rehearsals. In addition to his wife, he is survived by three children: Lesli Marie Griffen, JD, AAS (Bruce); Neil Loren Johnson, JD (Michelle): and Noel David Johnson, DVM, MPH, DACLAM. He is also survived by thirteen grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
All are invited to a celebration of Loren’s life at Shepherd of the Mountains Lutheran Church, 2000 Ptarmigan Trail, Estes Park, CO at 2:00 pm on Sunday, September 5th. For those who cannot attend, a recording of this celebration will be available after Tuesday, September 7th, at www.smlcestes.org.
In lieu of flowers, please send checks to Shepherd of the Mountains Lutheran Church, 2000 Ptarmigan Trail, Estes Park, CO 80517, indicating that it is for either world hunger or Crossroads Ministries.