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September 20, 1935 – April 30, 2023



Carl Frederick Johnson was born on September 20, 1935 in LaBolt, South Dakota. He was born on the kitchen table at the family homestead, one of three children to Carl and Augusta  Johnson. He never knew his father, who died the day he was baptized. He attended high school at Strandburg and transferred to Millbank due to his athletic exploits, where he set records in basketball, football and track. Of all his success in sports, his lifelong love was playing town baseball at LaBolt. Carl dazzled the crowds as he set records that made history books across the plains of South Dakota. If you have heard of the story “Hoosiers”, you can most certainly relate to Millbank’s 1953 Class “A” South Dakota State Basketball Tournament championship team. It was there that Carl shined with his jump shot, and set the 96 point tournament record that stood for over 40 years.


Carl attended University of South Dakota (Class of 1957) as the beneficiary of  football, track and  basketball scholarships. He was a proud ’Yote who concentrated on football, where his success led to a tryout contract with the Detroit Lions over 2 seasons. A knee injury affected his possible NFL career, so instead he played Canadian Football at Kitchener, where he was part of the Canadian Football League championship in 1958 as a halfback with the Hamilton Tiger Cats. 


Upon the conclusion of his athletic career, he turned to education as his vocation, where he prided himself on being an advocate for students. His first job was in Round Lake, MN as a science teacher and football coach, and he also began the track program. It was there he met Mary Mitchell through a blind date in 1958. Their courtship at various VFWs — dancing the Lindy and Two Step — resulted in a 1959 wedding in Round Lake. His next position took him to Rapid City, SD as a biology teacher and assistant football coach. While Mary is still waiting for her honeymoon, Carl’s career did take them throughout South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota for teaching, administration and coaching positions in Round Lake, MN; Rapid City and Groton, SD; Sibley and Estherville, IA; and finally Andover, MN with Anoka Ramsey Community College.


Throughout these moves the family grew: twins Eric and Mark born in Sibley; Tom in Estherville; and twins Paul and Joanna in Anoka.


In 1977 the family bought a hobby farm in Monticello where Carl and Mary raised their children to be star athletes in their own regard. Upon his retirement they moved to Lake Pulaski in Buffalo to live out his golden years tending to his grandchildren’s athletic exploits and perfecting his woodworking skills. The onset of Parkinson’s disease affected his later years, but it did not interfere with enjoying his pipe on the deck; fishing adventures; serenading family with piano chords; and being surrounded by his family. 


Carl died on April 30, 2023 and was preceded in death by his mother( Augusta), father (Carl), brothers (Carl and Phillip), son Eric, and grandson James.


Carl is survived by Mary and their four surviving children Mark (Leya), Tom (Jen), Paul (Christina) and Joanna (Chris); nine surviving grandchildren: Sam (Allie), Nick (Kenzie), Lily, Kailey (Josh), Harlan, Lucy, Stella, Louisa, and Mitchell; and one great-grandchild (Rosa) — with another great-grandchild on the way.


A Celebration of Life will be held May 18 at Buffalo United Methodist Church with a service at 4:30 and a social gathering and light dinner following.

3 Guestbook Entries

  1. Tom Johnson

    Rest in peace Pops!
    Thanks for always being there.
    Love You!!!!

  2. Joanna Warmington

    Dad…thank you for teaching me discipline, showing me how to have courage and the perseverance to fight through life. You are one of a kind.

    I will be sure to help with the raking for you. I love you.

  3. Marky Moe

    True American Story, Dad! I love you and will for sure miss our talks!
    Thanks for helping me find my happy place!!!


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