Richard Johanson, a successful Fresno businessman and World War II veteran passionate about helping others through public service, died Wednesday of natural causes. He was 96 years old.
Johanson was the founder of Johanson Transportation Services, the Fresno-based shipping and trucking company that grew into a multi-million dollar national corporation.
But as Johanson saw it, his success in business was only part of his big life goal of inspiring others to help those less fortunate — as this Central Valley native often did.
Johanson has donated to several non-profit organizations over the years and served on numerous boards, committees and boards, including serving as a trustee of the Fresno Unified School District in the early 2000s.
“Sharing opportunities to give back time and resources with the undereducated, the unhealthy, the unemployed, or the incarcerated has become an unwritten but acceptable mandate in our own lives and those of our families. “, wrote Johanson in a 2016 Commentary published by The Fresno Bee.
Inspire others to donate
Johanson’s way of giving back to the community was not just money or time, but also trying to motivate others, rich or poor, to take an active role in helping to grow Fresno together.
“Leadership becomes a form of partnership where everyone has to take ownership because each of us is an essential part of the business,” Johanson wrote during his comment, which coincided with his 90th birthday in 2016.
“Over the years of my life, I have discovered that those who dream understand that solving community problems is a very complex process that requires learning, thinking and listening to a wide range of people from many disciplines” , Johanson wrote. . “These community actors must agree that the composition of assemblies of change agents must include private, public and not-for-profit entities that each commit to working in a spirit of harmonious cooperation.”
Because of his success in business and his dedication to public service, Johanson was often invited to join various committees and advisory boards in Fresno.
Among the organizations that Johanson served on the board of trustees were the Fresno Metropolitan Museum, the Fresno Unified School District, the Fresno Chamber of Commerce, and the Rotary Club of Fresno.
In 2017, Fresno State presented Johanson with the inaugural Ethical Leadership Award.
“He was an important mentor to a number of community leaders,” Dr. Andrew Fiala, chair of Fresno State’s Department of Philosophy, said of Johanson in a 2017 issue of Fresno State magazine. “He is a man with a strong moral compass, a sense of humility and a concern for the greater good.”
Larry Johanson, the passionate philanthropist’s son, said his father was inspired to help Fresno as much as he could “because Fresno is home – has always been where he’s been cut off and where his family has lived” .
Time in the Marines, World War II
Larry Johanson also said he believes many of his father’s hopes and dreams for a better community, and the way he conducted himself were shaped during his four years in the Marines and being sent in China during World War II.
It was in the military that Elder Johanson discovered the importance of integrity, honesty, respect and gratitude, as well as the joy of camaraderie and the duty to “do what it’s necessary “.
Johanson applied these values to his life when he returned from the war, and later when he started his trucking business in 1971.
“He ingrained those values in me, and he ingrained them in the business because that’s how he wanted to live his life and run his business,” Larry Johanson said. “There could be no conflict between the two – the person you are and the way you conduct yourself in business.”
On an Honor Flight trip that took several military veterans from Fresno to Washington D.C. for a quick trip a few years ago, Larry Johanson recalled that his father was excited and moved to relive his time in the Marines and what it was during World War II.
“This trip really reminded me of the level of sacrifice my father made during World War II,” said Larry Johanson. “And with him being surrounded by other veterans and seeing how much it meant to everyone, a lot of memories came flooding back for my dad and a lot of tears flowed.”
Johanson is survived by son Larry and daughter-in-law Patti, daughter Gail Gomes and son-in-law Jason, grandchildren Yvonee Scott and Jody Gomes, and four great-grandchildren.
Johanson was married for 60 years to his wife Althea Ruth Johanson, who died in 2010.
“My dad was a Christian and his faith was very, very important to him,” Larry Johanson said. “Before he passed, we had talked about our faith and where he would be in heaven.
“We know where he is and we know he found my mother. We are reassured by this.