Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson

Obituary of Martin Duane Johnson

Marty (Martin Duane) Johnson 65 was born on April 26, 1958 in Madison, Wisconsin, and died on July 27, 2023. Marty is survived by his mom Dolly (Dora Mae) Johnson and his three brothers Maury (Maurice Timothy), David Alan (wife Peggy Ann Hess-Johnson, daughter Caitlin Rae Neff, husband Dan Neff, son Cedar Haynes and daughter Kestrel Marie, and son Ian James), Erik Haynes (wife Marisa, daughter Aniya Jasmine). He was preceded in death by his father John Haynes Johnson and brother Mark (John Mark).

Marty would often talk about his parents and family and his adventures growing up. He deeply admired his father’s ministry, especially in Chicago, where John championed diversity. He was very proud of his mother, Dolly and admired her intelligence and career. He also treasured being near her as a child, in the kitchen and learned much from her. He told stories about his brothers and their adventures together. Marty loved his family and treasured memories of his older relatives too. He was a storyteller. But he was also a patient listener.

Marty was a poet who chose to avoid mainstream culture and capitalism. He loved words and a good argumentative debate. He had a sharp wit and a sometimes sharp tongue, but he cared about his friends. He continued extending himself to others even as his own health and abilities were declining. He never quit caring for others and lending his helping hands.

He was an athlete who enjoyed pickup basketball with West Bank friends and golfing with the guys. Marty attended St. Olaf College from 1976-1980 where he lettered in track & cross-country. He was the 5th man on the St. Olaf cross-country team that qualified for the NCAA National cross-country championship in 1978. He ran because he was good…he played pick-up basketball because he loved it. 

Marty was passionate about feeding people. For years, he brought his ‘meat wagon’ grill (a three wheeled bicycle rickshaw with a large grill on the front!) to the West Bank, cooking for anyone who was hungry. For some, it might be the only protein they ate that day. After he moved to the Seward neighborhood, he was not able to continue this but began volunteering to help bring fresh produce to First Nations Kitchen for 7 years.

But he could also be quite contrary. He liked to argue philosophical points often taking the opposing side just to debate. His education at St. Olaf’s left him well read and full of what might seem like obscure facts. He had an extensive library to back up his points of view. He loved to read and to write down his thoughts in prose and poetry.

He was also a musician, bringing his bag of flutes to play with friends on Wednesday nights “Hippienanny Jam” at Palmer’s for years. He was known to entertain by sometimes playing 2 flutes at once.

He was at one time a community activist, which put him in opposition to some people with clout, who didn’t like his calling them to task. He was also an educator and worked for a while at the charter school which opened in Cedar Square. Those who knew him in that time know that he lost his zest for community involvement at one point, but he never lost his caring for people in the community. He served and lived in the Minneapolis west-bank community for over 45 years, a regular at The Hard Times Café, The Viking, and Palmer’s Bar.

He was a rescuer, in his own way, always trying to pick his friends up, both figuratively and sometimes literally. He did not turn his back on people, even when they let him down. He didn’t give up on his friends. Marty believed in redemption. He saw the good in people that others had turned away. He was forgiving of those who took advantage of his kindness. He looked to help reconcile friends who fell out with one another. He often refused to take sides but would continue to counsel reconciliation.

He endeavored to mentor those younger than himself, sharing his home, his knowledge, his passions and philosophy, trying to help them navigate whatever situation one might have gotten into. He took people in, fed them, shared whatever he had with an endless patience for their foibles and failings. He was often the last person who would lend a hand to those whose friends and family had given up on them.

A memorial service is planned for Saturday August 19 at noon at All Saints Indian Mission Episcopal, Minneapolis MN. The family would request that in leu of gifts that you make a deliberate ‘act of kindness’ in Marty’s memory.


Memorial Service

12:00 pm
Saturday, August 19, 2023
All Saints Indian Mission Episcopal
3044 Longfellow Ave
Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States
(612) 722-2342
A memorial service is planned for Saturday August 19 at noon at All Saints Indian Mission Episcopal, Minneapolis MN. The family would request that in leu of gifts that you make a deliberate ‘act of kindness’ in Marty’s memory.
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