Harry Lee Johnson, 92, a resident of Blacksburg for most of his life, passed away on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in York, Penn.
Harry was born on July 21, 1928, in San Francisco to the late Harry Louis Johnson and Rose (Koch) Johnson. The family moved to Los Angeles in 1930.
Harry and his sister, Lois, lost contact with their father and lost their mother in December 1941. They were separated and lived with different families in the San Francisco Bay area. During his teenage years, Harry had several jobs, including paperboy, machine apprentice in a shipyard and grocery store clerk. He went to Portland on his own when he turned 16, and he graduated from a high school in Portland.
He enlisted in the United States Army on August 9, 1946, on the G.I. Bill. Harry was stationed in Berlin, Germany, working at the message center of the Engineering Command for Berlin and with a signal company as a radio repairman. Harry achieved the rank of corporal and was honorably discharged from the Army in July 1949.
He returned to Los Angeles and received his bachelor’s degree from West Coast University in the fall of 1952 with a major in mathematics. After graduation, Harry worked on a guided missile system for Northrop Aviation Corporation for two years in Hawthorne, Calif. He earned his master’s degree in applied mathematics in 1957 and his PhD in applied mathematics in 1960 from the University of Minnesota.
After receiving his graduate degrees, Harry joined a research group at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, for two years. He then went to Purdue University and taught for two years as an assistant professor in mathematics.
He accepted an offer to be an assistant professor at Virginia Tech in 1965 and became a member of The Society of the Sigma Xi in 1967. Harry was promoted to associate professor in June 1969 and retired in June 1992. During his tenure at Virginia Tech, Harry published about eight research papers. He was designated as Associate Professor Emeritus of Mathematics by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors in August 1992. This was granted based on 27 years of service, his research papers and his contributions to the area of boundary value problems. After his retirement, Harry continued to refine a paper on a tethered balloon problem.
Harry met Harriet Farrier in the spring of 1968 in the Virginia Tech mathematics department while she was obtaining her master’s degree. On June 10, 1969, Harry and Harriet were married in Roanoke. They built a loving home for their two children, Paula and Brian. Harry enjoyed traveling, doing puzzles, playing games, reading, watching Hokie football and woodworking. He will be remembered as a loving and giving father who adored his three grandchildren.
Survivors include his two children, Paula (Michael Wynne) Johnson of New Freedom,
Penn., and Brian (Kalyna Nedilsky) Johnson of Columbia, Md.; three grandchildren, Gabriella and Juliana Wynne and Jae Johnson; sister-in-law Pence Farrier Ellis of Herndon, Va.; brother-in-law Dr. Paul (Evelyn) Farrier, Jr., of Blacksburg; along with nieces and nephews. Harry was preceded in death by his wife of 51 years, Harriet Johnson; his parents, Harry and Rose Johnson; his sister, Lois Jean Marr; and a brother-in-law, Roy Howard Ellis.
A virtual memorial service is being planned. The funeral arrangements are being handled by Beck’s Funeral Home and Cremation Service, Inc., in York, Penn. To post online condolences, visit https://www.beckfunerals.com/obituaries/obituary-listings.
In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate memorials in Harry’s name to the Virginia Tech Mathematics Department or the Nature Conservancy.