Cover photo for Joel Johnson's Obituary
Joel Johnson Profile Photo
1952 Joel 2019

Joel Johnson

September 4, 1952 — August 6, 2019

The man, the myth, the legend. The G-dog.

Joel Richard Johnson (66) of Ripon, WI passed away too soon, on Tuesday, August 6, 2019 at Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee, WI, while continuing his month-long search for a diagnosis.

Joel was born on September 4, 1952 in Ishpeming, MI to Richard and Janis (Oebser) Johnson. After graduating as a high school hotshot from Columbus High School in Marshfield, WI in 1970, Joel attended Stout State (UW–Stout) in Menomonie, WI. Before receiving his Bachelor of Science degrees in Manufacturing Engineering and Computers in 1977, Joel served in the United States Army and the Wisconsin National Guard from 1972 to 1975. 

On August 26, 1972 Joel married homecoming queen Diane Britten (befitting of our favorite hotshot). Because family was the primary focus in Joel’s life, he and Diane were excited to welcome their first daughter, Jessica, on Valentine’s Day in 1974, and even more thrilled to welcome their second daughter, Jenna, on an ordinary day in 1980. Supporting and encouraging his daughters was his #1 priority, feeling blessed to see them grow and find their way in life. During a recent interview with granddaughter Charlie, Joel said, without hesitation, that his two favorite memories were, “My two daughters, can’t think of anything more important than that. They are grown up, they’ve done well, and I’m proud of them.”

With raised eyebrows, Joel welcomed sons-in-law to the family. Glenn Fischer in 1995 when he married Jessica and JR Walker in 2007 when he married Jenna.

The births of his four grandchildren brought out his signature bear hugs, knuckles, and other fun gestures they shared. Ben Fischer (21), could not have asked for a better best friend. Those two with their darn technology that no one else really understands, always up to 3D printing shenanigans and building something or other out in the shop. Charlie Fischer (20), became his back seat rider on his Harley. Like the core lessons he taught his daughters, she too learned from him how to be a strong leader and how to love a family fully and humbly. Clare Walker (10), proclaimed that she has the best Grandpa in the world who she will have with her forever. Grandpa would do anything for his little Clare, from helping her with science projects to cheering her on at swim meets. Albert Walker (7), Grandpa’s bulldozer and his "mini-me," sits with the same crossed legs and has the same mischievous smile.

Among his other loving relatives are his mom, Janis Johnson, Linda (Dean Smith), Ellen (Keith Karow), Donna (Tim Fahs), Mary Britten, Bonnie (Jim Melvin), Chris Williams, Jill Sorenson, Paul (Julie Johnson), Jay (Karen Johnson), godchildren Ben Britten, Kara Carlson, Christopher Johnson, Matt Karow, Bobbi Smith, Eric Sorenson, his uncle Marlin (Sharon) Oebser, cousins, and many nieces, nephews, and their precious children.

After his military service and finishing his degree, Joel worked at LaCrosse Cooler in LaCrosse, WI and Scotsman Ice Systems in Albert Lee, MN. In 1981, Joel moved to Ripon to work as an Engineer for Alliance Laundry Systems, known then as Speed Queen. Joel said, “There are no shortcuts, just hard work.” That philosophy, along with his integrity and problem-solving ability guided him through many roles in his 34 years at Alliance, where he retired as a Senior Manager of Major Projects in 2015. However, he continued to consult on projects and mentor colleagues.

He loved spending time with his family, tinkering on projects in his shop (especially with his grandkids), and taking trips. Joel and Diane traveled together and with family to 49 states and 19 countries. He believed and wanted his family to learn that the world is bigger than where you are from. At Macchu Pichu, they hiked six miles, in Colorado they white water rafted, in Canada they zip lined, in Michigan they dune-buggied, in the Caribbean they snorkeled, in Switzerland they scoffed at $100,000 watches and $30 hot dogs, and he tolerated Disney on a few occasions for the benefit of his children and grandchildren.

Even as a young boy, Joel was quiet, humble, and kind. He invested his time and energy into things that mattered to him. For example, he volunteered countless hours in local classrooms, believing education pays the highest rewards. To continue to support the things that mattered to him, a memorial fund is being established in his name with the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation. Donations can be made in his name online at or at 230 Ohio Street, Suite 100, Oshkosh, WI 54902.

Joel did not want a funeral and his ashes will be laid to rest next to his father and ancestors at Grandview Cemetery in Menomonie, WI. Honoring his wishes, his family and friends will be celebrating his birthday at Vines & Rushes Winery in Ripon, WI on Sunday, September 1, 2019 starting at 11:30 AM. Final salute with military honors will conclude the celebration at 1:30 PM.

He wasn’t a man of many words, but he was a man full of love. Love for motorcycles, manhattans, traveling, a nice solid piece of wood, his family, and those around him. He said it himself, “despite any differences, at the end of the day, neighbors are neighbors and therefore friends.”

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