PEACHTREE CITY, GA—Retired U.S. Army Col. Erik G. Johnson Jr., 87, died peacefully on February 18, 2017, in Peachtree City, Ga.
He was born on May 3, 1929, in Grand Rapids, Mich. After graduating from high school in 1947 he entered the Army with the intention of using the GI Bill to become a doctor. As a young soldier he discovered that military life was his true passion and he went on to earn his commission from Officer Candidate School (OCS) as a second lieutenant in 1949. He stayed 34 years and retired as a colonel in 1981.
An infantryman, Erik commanded companies in Germany and in Korea and was Senior Province Advisor in Bien Hoa Province, Vietnam, from 1967-1968 and during the Tet Offensive. He then worked in public affairs posts at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and was the Army’s Chief of Public Affairs in Europe from 1972-1976.
Erik earned the Combat Infantryman Badge, Ranger tab, Airborne Wings, Legion of Merit, with three Oak Leaf Clusters, and Germany’s Grand Service Cross. He was inducted into the OCS Hall of Fame in 1991.
During his career he earned a bachelor’s in military science from the University of Maryland and a master’s in journalism from the University of Wisconsin. After retiring from the Army, Erik joined the staff of the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) as its director of legislative affairs where he represented the Army on Capitol Hill; he retired from AUSA in 1995.
Growing up on Lake Cadillac he had a great love of sailing and enjoyed exploring the Chesapeake Bay aboard his sailboat Sverige. A dedicated and lifelong Christian, he actively supported the congregation of St. Stephens Anglican Church and its work to establish a new congregation, now Light of Christ Anglican Church in Heathsville. He also enjoyed annual reunions with his OCS classmates.
Erik was married for 48 years to the late Rita Ginn, whom he met while he was stationed in Berlin, Germany, as a junior officer, and she was posted there with the state department. After the loss of his beloved Rita to a sudden illness, he married long-time friend Patricia Gomolak, who passed away in 2005.
He is survived by his three “troops”, Desiree (retired U.S. Navy Capt. Jeffrey) Mobed, Sandwich, Mass.; retired U.S. Navy Cmdr. Richard (Laura) Johnson, Peachtree City; and Melanie (Bill) Lawton, Homestead, Fla.; and four grandchildren: Lt. j.g. David Mobed, Nathan Mobed, Ryan Johnson and Elise Johnson.
Pat’s family includes children John (Pat) Gomolak, Mark Gomolak, Cyndy (Tom) Lyon, Kathy (Al) Belson, all living in Michigan, and several grandchildren.
A funeral service will be held at the Old Post Chapel on Fort Myer at 9 a.m. July 24, followed by burial in Arlington Cemetery.