A Great American Has Passed

On Feb. 9, Peter Thomas Johnson died after a long struggle with Parkinson’s disease.

I had the great pleasure of getting to know Peter beginning in 1986, shortly after he had stepped down as administrator of the Bonneville Power Administration in Portland and returned to Idaho to pursue his muse(s). As a producer/reporter for Idaho Public TV, I profiled Peter on “Idaho Reports.” The eight-minute video can be viewed on IPTV’s “Idaho Reports” website http://idahoptv.org/idreports/ (scroll down to the profile):


Thanks to cameraman & director Ricardo Ochoa for retrieving the profile from the IEPBS archives and posting it online.

Shortly after I left Idaho Public TV, Peter got me to produce a TV spot of him, as the former head of BPA, lauding Republican Slade Gorton for reelection to the US Senate from Washington. Peter could be very persuasive!

Several years later, Diane Ronayne and I worked with Peter, his daughter Linda Williams & cartoonist Mark Larson to produce signage and a series of publications for the Big Payette Lake Water Quality Council, which Peter had kick-started to educate people about the effects of McCall’s growing popularity on the lake that had become a center of his universe. He was a man who truly knew how to get things done.

I was struck at Peter’s memorial service Tuesday when Carol MacGregor approached the podium: Over the BSU Stueckel Sky Center sound system, harmonized voices of “Dear Old Dartmouth” sang out the words of the Alma Mater that so fit Peter:

For the sons of old Dartmouth…
They have the still North in their hearts,
The hill-winds in their veins,
And the granite of New Hampshire
In their muscles and their brains….

For the sons of old Dartmouth…
They have the still North in their soul,
The hill-winds in their breath,
And the granite of New Hampshire
Is made part of them till death.

“Payette Lake granite is a lot like New England’s,” I thought.

In her eulogy, Carol MacGregor, whose father gave Peter his start in business and who at Peter’s urging went Back East to college herself, spoke eloquently of how Peter balanced success in business, public service and the arts through a life whose intention was shaped in part by his Dartmouth education. From his chiseled, athletic features to his solid perseverance, Peter Johnson personified American granite.

Please note: An earlier version of this blog incorrectly identified the disease with which Peter Johnson struggled in his last years.

3 thoughts on “A Great American Has Passed

Comments are closed.