Laurin Robert Johnson
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Laurin Robert Johnson
  • November 15, 1934 - August 25, 2017
  • Oregon

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Laurin was born on a dark November day in 1934 in Bismarck, North Dakota. His parents were children of Norwegian immigrants who homesteaded there. The town gave him a wonderful childhood, back when children and dogs ran free. By the time he was eleven he had broken an arm three times. All his life, he cherished the memories of spending harvest time on his Uncle Peter's farm, sitting with his cousins in the hopper of the combine as the wheat rained down. The horses, the hogs, the chickens, the milking with forehead resting on the warm flank of the cow.

After the war his family moved to Denver. He delivered the Rocky Mountain News at dawn and the Denver Post in the afternoon; throwing the papers onto porches from his bicycle. He graduated from East High School in 1952. In the years preceding he had witnessed the mushroom cloud over Hiroshima, watched newsreels of A-Bomb tests on the Bikini Atoll, signed affidavits that he had never been associated with any one on a list of a hundred or more organizations, all of them Communist fronts. Keep your head down, your mouth shut. His was called the silent generation. He smoked Camel cigarettes, read Hot Rod magazine, Kierkegaard, Camus, and Kafka, coerced in the gloom of the fifties. The House Un-American Activities Commission dominated the news. The Korean War loomed in his future.

He enrolled in the Engineering school at the University of Colorado, working summers with the US Geological Survey in eastern Wyoming and with the Bureau of Public Roads around Jackson Hole. Laurin then spent three years in the US Army, six months at the Army Language School In Monterey, two years as a translator in Frankfurt, Germany. After his discharge he remained in Europe, attending the University Of Montpellier in the south of France. There he met several life-long friends.

Coming back to the states he earned a BA degree in literature with a minor in theology from the University of Chicago . To earn extra money he was an early version of a "search engine". People would write into the Encyclopedia Britannica with questions to which they could not find answers and he would do the research and write back. After graduating he headed to San Francisco to seek his fortune. Eventually finding work as a bank teller. After the assassination of President Kennedy he hopped a freighter and headed back to Europe, married one of his friends from his days at Montpellier and eventually headed back to the states where they ended up in Portland. From Reed College he earned a Masters of Arts in teaching interning at Girl's Polytechnique 1965-1966 and then teaching English at Portland Community College from 1967 to 1990.

In 1989 he married Deborah Rand, and enjoyed a retirement of traveling, music (playing the piano, guitar and dobro and singing with the Frances Street Singers), carpentry, publishing his book on the astronomical roots of Homer's Odyssey, reading and philosophizing with friends over a cold beer. When his beloved camper (1950 Chevy pick-up) finally rusted out he created cozy replacement out of a mini school bus. Laurin, Deborah and their Golden Retrievers, Harley and Gus traveled many a mile in the Cool Bus.

He also spent many a happy hour co-authoring the Arnold Street Weekly (a witty, clever, humorous commentary) with his long time close friend Peter Clough.

Whenever he felt the need to pray he sat at his upright piano and played the andante of Bach's Italian Concerto.

He had as many ancestors as the best of men. He had twice as many ancestors as his father and twice as many as his mother, yet he had only two more than his parents, namely his parents.

He was not bigger than life, as might be said of many famous men. Sometimes he wondered if he was even the same size. He died as he had lived, never owning a cell phone.
?He is survived by his three children, Mira Lazaro of Santa Barbara, Lisa Diamond of Portland, Isaac Johnson of Portland, their mother Yvette Roche Johnson of Portland, his sister Lois Jouett of Broomfield Colorado, his current wife Deborah Rand, his step-daughter Julie Crary of Willow Springs North Carolina, his step-son Matthew Goodwin of Portland and ten grandchildren.

To celebrate his life, a gathering of family and friends will be held at his home September 30th from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM. Attendees are encouraged to bring food to share and a musical instrument to play along. In lieu of flowers, family ask donations to be made to Legacy Hopewell House