Music 08

Stefan Johnson

March 23, 1960 ~ January 21, 2021 (age 60)


Stefan Johnson, 60 of St. Cloud, MN, formerly of Warren, MN, passed away unexpectedly on Thursday, January 21, 2021 at North Valley Health Center in Warren, MN.

Stefan James Johnson, beloved eldest son of James and Shirley Johnson, was born on March 23, 1960. There was never a dull moment for Stefan growing up on the family farm with his two mischievous younger brothers (Eric, Neil). 

Stefan, a quiet, curious boy, displayed precocious gifts and talents. As a wee lad, he amused and delighted family, teachers and friends with his creative cartoon-like sketches. With just a few strokes, he could capture the likeness of any subject. Teenaged Stefan developed a fascination with guitars and tube amps which became his lifelong passion. His other great love was fishing. He enjoyed the solitude of the family’s lake cabin in Bemidji where he spent his summers in pursuit of “the big one.” 

After graduation from Warren High School, Stefan went to Redwing Technical College for electronic engineering/instrumental repair - which lead to employment in many music stores (Scott’s Music, Emerson Music & Sound, Poppler’s Music [Grand Forks, ND], Willie’s American Guitars [St. Paul, MN]). He was also a highly skilled independent luthier. Stefan developed a reputation as a kind, hard-working, humble, brilliant man who could fix, modify, set up or build anything. He played in any band that would hire a “guitar picker” (Jessup, Cheyenne, Justyn Time, The Jetsons, Bill Maynard & the Countrymen, The Goldie Diggers, Jedd Zeppelin, Sleepless Nights, TBC, Justin Ploof & the Throwbacks). 

In his twenties a gift for penning masterful storytelling songs emerged. Stefan also crafted witty and poetic short stories for kids. He was seldom seen without his pencil, paper and guitar in hand. Stefan chased music more than he chased girls (much to the dismay of matchmakers), but Stefan’s outlook was simple. He figured, if he remained true to the things he loved, he’d eventually cross paths with the right girl, with the right interests, at the right time. One day a curious hat-wearing girl with a guitar almost as big as her, dropped by his studio with hopes of joining a band. Phyllis passed the audition. The Telecaster pickin’ boy and Rickenbacker lovin’ girl were inseparable companions for 5 years before marrying on Valentine’s Day, 1994. Their mutual love of songwriting resulted in many collaborative endeavors within their home recording studio. From their 27 year union came two beautiful boys, Winston and Oliver. God had different plans for Oliver who passed from his mother's womb into his heavenly Father’s arms. Stefan’s saddest day. This left Winston an only child. His much adored “little man” was the center of Stefan’s world. “Mop Top” was his Daddy’s pride, joy and purpose for living. Some of Stefan’s fondest father/son memories were spent volunteering at Many Point Scout camp. One of his proudest moments was seeing Winston reach the rank of Eagle Scout. Stefan loved attending county fairs, classic car shows, drive-in movies, antique stores and scenic bike rides with his family. Their journey eventually landed them in St. Cloud, MN, where Stefan embarked upon a 12 year dental technician career (Granite City Dental Lab). He eventually found his way back to the family farm, working side by side his brothers and nephews. 

Stefan possessed extraordinary super human skills. His encyclopedic memory regarding history, music, guitars, amps, airplanes, guns, pop culture, and the Bible was the stuff of legend. Stefan was a guitar pickin’, songsmithin’, chili-makin’, gunslingin’, twang talkin’, joke tellin’, canoe tippin’, bat swattin’, amp whisperin’, fish wranglin’, fire buildin’, lizard handlin’, spider catchin’, BBQ grillin’, lawn mowin’, coffee drinkin’, Jesus followin’ dude. Co-workers referred to him as “a gear genius”; “the man with the perfect tone”; “our resident MacGyver.” His closest friends called him “one of the good guys with the white hat”; “a man of valor”; “a good man to ride the river with.” All who knew him will agree Stefan was the best of men. As good as they come. A man after God’s own heart. As a husband, father, son, brother, uncle and friend, Stefan left an impossibly high water mark. Phyllis stated, “His was the most beautiful soul I’ve ever known.” 

Rest easy, dearest Stefan. We can only imagine how sweet it must be wetting a line with Oliver on the other side.   

Stefan is survived by his wife, Phyllis Johnson; son, Winston Johnson (St. Cloud); father, James Johnson; brothers, Eric (Lori) Johnson, Neil (Diane) Johnson (Warren, MN); 17 nephews and nieces, 17 great nieces and nephews; mother-in-law, Audrey Gottschall (St. Cloud, MN); brothers-in-law, Terry (Connie) Gottschall (Mandaree, ND), Harlan Gottschall; and sister-in-law, Carlotta (Tom) Gohman (St. Cloud, MN).

Stefan is preceded in death by his mother, Shirley Johnson; and son, Oliver Johnson.


FUNERAL SERVICE: 1:00 PM on Friday, January 29, 2021 at Valley Christian Church in Grand Forks, ND.  The family asks that face masks are worn and social distancing is practiced at the funeral service.

The Service will be live-streamed on Valley Christian Church's Facebook page.

INTERMENT: Stefan will be laid to rest next to his son, Oliver, in Greenwood Cemetery in Warren, MN following the service.

To send flowers to Stefan's family, please visit our floral store.


January 29, 2021

1:00 PM
Valley Christian Church
3920 Cherry St
Grand Forks, ND 58201


Greenwood Cemetery
7th Street
Warren, MN 56762

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