Steven Johnson

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Steven Johnson

November 10, 1963 -

Steven Johnson Steven Curtis Johnson
You couldn't mistake his profile, which he earned one day out on Sparta's Perch Lake. Steve and his younger brother, Mark were paddling a canoe in search of golf balls to sell for extra money.
Someone called "fore!" Mark saw the ball coming and ducked, but Steve ended up with that signature bump in his nose.
Then there was the time he was ice fishing up in Minnesota with old buddy Lowell. Steve hopped on the snowmobile, grabbed the throttle with one of his worn, scarred hands, and cranked it wide open. His joy in feeling the cold air against his face...being legally blind he hadn't felt that since his younger motorcycle days.
A million moments and cherished memories, far too many to share. In the end, no one would dispute it was 55 years well-lived.
Steven Curtis Johnson died Thursday, March 14, 2019. Steven was born in La Crosse, Nov. 10, 1963, to Curtis and Alyce Johnson of Sparta. He was the second of six children and certainly held his rank among the siblings. A small man with a big attitude garnered the fitting nickname "Stubby," which stuck with him. A 1982 graduate of Sparta Senior High School, Steve was a standout trumpet player in the band. He worked at Ted and Fred's grocery, cutting his hands a million times on the box cutters he used in stocking the shelves, and earned enough money to buy a Dodge Colt. After high school, Steve pursued a degree in radiography from Western Wisconsin Technical Institute, until he lost his sight and his life changed forever. After enduring innumerable medical hardships, Steve received the gift of life from an anonymous donor hero in 1991. Steve fought to regain a new sense of normal and enrolled in UW-La Crosse, graduating in 1997 with Bachelor's in community health education. Steve dedicated his second chance at life to giving back to his community. He served on various boards and committees working to improve the lives of others around him, including: North American Squirrel Association, Lions Club of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, La Crosse Municipal Transit, and the Wisconsin Council for the Blind & Visually Impaired. Steve worked tirelessly for the County of La Crosse in various capacities, most recently for the Aging and Resource Disability Center. The ARDC staff were his second family, and he very much enjoyed spending his days with his colleagues. Steve was proud of living independently and being a homeowner. However, he was most proud of his Black Labrador Leader Dogs, who served as his eyes and best friends for three decades, and allowed him to live a full life of meaning and gratitude. Steve was preceded in death by his parents; and Leader Dogs, Thor and Ripley.
Looking back now, Steve's favorite Bible verse seems so fitting: "Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." (Hebrews 11:1) In the very end, whether we can physically see with our eyes or not, we fall back on our faith. In one of Steve's final Facebook posts he asked us all to "try to understand what is really important in life. Don't be too proud to ask for help. We all want to be independent, but let's strive for interdependence, as we may all need each other at some point in our lives. Too often it is hard for us to just tell those around us how much we appreciate them. With that said, I love you all..."
Special thanks to the medical staff at UW Health, Gundersen Lutheran Hospital and Hillview
Health Care that cared for Steve.
A celebration of life will be hosted by his siblings from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday, April 14, at Red Pines Bar Grill in Brice Prairie. Steve wanted a casual, fun gathering and asked visitors to come dressed in their favorite rock t-shirt, Wisconsin sports gear, or a Jimmy Buffett-style Hawaiian shirt. Steve asked that donations be made to the following organizations that were dear to his heart: North American Squirrel Association, Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired, or the La Crosse Lions Charities - Leader Dog. Coulee Region Cremation Group has been entrusted with arrangements. Online condolences may be left at
Published on March 17, 2019
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24 posts

Tom Link
Mar 19, 2019
Thank you Steve for all your contributions to Students Advocating Potential Ability (SAPA) while you were a student at UW-L. We were also honored to have you as our guest speaker at the Most Accessible Awards ceremony. I will always remember you for your passion for educating me and others about the rights of people who have a disability. You are missed.
Jean Amunrud
Mar 18, 2019
I remember taking Steve to a rock concert at the Center when I worked at Hillview Healthcare. He was a resident there for awhile. We both had a good time! RIP Steve !
Mark Spaag
Mar 18, 2019
I instinctively look right down Redfield St each night on my way home from work, missing that turn we used to make when we shared rides and times with you and Bennett. Things remembered: gardening conversations, music trivia and the sometimes wonderfully irreverent sense of humor. It still makes me smile...
Dave and Nancy Nelson
Mar 18, 2019
Despite blindness, Steve, you brought a lot of bright light into the world for allmof us to see. So glad we had many days to share time with you! Rest in peace, dear friend.
Nick Beck
Mar 18, 2019
You were a nice person I sure the MTU 🚌 driver's will missed plus you got a good heart and everyone missed you in La Crosse Wi .
Pat and Will Rossman
Mar 18, 2019
We will always remember this fine young man...with smiles, blessings and love. We feel lucky to have known him🙏
Ruth Peterson
Mar 18, 2019
I worked with Steve awhile ago and he left an impression on me for years. Just an amazing man who loved to help his community. The world lost an incredible person.
Doug and Pam Mannel
Mar 17, 2019
Our thoughts and prayers for Steve's family and close friends. He was an inspiration for so many people, all the health complications throughout most of his life never slowed him down, he always remained focused on whatever the problem was and never quit till he was satisfied that he had gone as far as possible. Your life has been an inspiration to many,many people. RIP Steve
Steven Nelson
Mar 17, 2019
I never knew your brother Andrea, but was touched by his story. I wish you all peace and solidarity as you move through this transition. :).
Mar 17, 2019
I’m sorry for your loss
Dawn Wood (Guse)
Mar 17, 2019
To Steve's family, it's been a long time and I have moved far away, but still have memories of Steve, not from high school, but when he he was adjusting to his his loss of sight and struggling with medical concerns. We would talk and for some reason I gave him a musical church. Honestly, not sure why I chose that for him. I met Thor and also introduces him to the fellow college friend of mine who shared the same struggles in life.
Though in time we lost touch, I never forgot him. And it appears he kept in touch with many of our classmates.
Please know my thoughts are with you.
Dawn Wood ( Guse)
Keith Schiebel
Mar 17, 2019
Peace out
Denise Lorenz
Mar 17, 2019
My heart is aching for all of us who knew Steve and for those who never got to meet him. I met Steve when he worked for Independent Living Resources years ago. He spoke to my DisAbility Support Specialist students on multiple occasions. One of my favorite memories of him was when we attended the RFW conference at The American Club in Kohler. I enjoyed getting to know him better on our way there and back. His dog Thor was very sick so we helped Steve navigate without him. His wit and smirk are what I'll miss most. A remarkable human being who truly made a difference in our world. RIP my Friend.
Patty Branton
Mar 17, 2019
I will cherish the memories we made as we learned to "run with scissors" during the WI DPN Project. We stated as co-workers & ended as friends. I will miss you Steve & all your guidance. My deepest sympathy to your Family.
Sue Riesing
Mar 17, 2019
My favorite memories of Stubby jnclude taking him ice fishing on Lake Onalaska, before his transplant, Thor shoplifting butterfinger candy bars at Shopko (Steve wondered why he smelled peanut butter), and being beat by him in a game of pool. He was amazing and gave me a priceless perspective. Rest in peace my friend.
Sheila Strasser
Mar 17, 2019
Will miss this guy deeply. I use to work at a pharmacy in Lax, Degen Berglund, Steve and Thor used to come in and get medicine. That is how I met him and Thor. Thor loved our candy shelf. Steve goes, what ya doing Thor, I said he is checking out the cand shelf. Anytime I saw Steve, no matter where it was, I always took time to stop and say hi and to let him know who I was. Rest in Peace my friend!!
Lisa Morgan
Mar 17, 2019
Steve, the kids and I love you and will miss you so much! I cherish all of the fun adventures we had. You have been an extraordinary example of independence and living every moment to the fullest. I always listen for the sound of the storks breathing now when I am out kayaking - something I never would have experienced if you hadn't pointed it out to me that day on Lake Onalaska.
Laurie Geier
Mar 17, 2019
You truly were an inspiration to us all. When God handed you lemons you made lemonade. You never let your disabilities define you, you proved that you were more than that. You truly lived above and beyond. You took the life God gave you and made your imprints here on earth. You continue to live in all of us, and those you touch. Fly high Stubby until we meet again.
Sandy Burkwalt
Mar 17, 2019
Thinking of you all at this sad time. RIP Steve, give Mom a big hug ❤️
Amy Hammes
Mar 17, 2019
When handed sample out at Wal mart they would help him shop and I would ask him would you like a sample and I think it was coffee and he did have coffee. I'm going to miss him on the bus with his dog. He was always talking to everyone.
Monica Seubert
Mar 17, 2019
Your strength and faith were an inspiration to all. Rest in peace Stubby.
Tina Bueltel
Mar 16, 2019
Will always remember Steve. He was a great person . I admired him so much. R.I.P.
Lois Blank
Mar 16, 2019
I remember your joy so vividly when you got the news that you were going to get a new pancreas and kidney way back in 1991. There are so many memories from back then! Go on gently you brave soul!
Sara Anderson
Mar 16, 2019
My favorite memory of Steve is when I was living in La Crosse near WTC. It was about 7am and there was a knock at my was Steve and Thor. I said "hey..what are you doing here"...and after recognizing my voice Steve said " Sara..what are you doing here? " He was very confused as he thought he was at a WTC building...he was given the wrong direction to the building and ended up at my house. We walked together to the building he needed and laughed about how ironic it was that he just happened to end up at my house. ❤️❤️ Steve...tell your mom hi...enjoy everything you can your healthy heavenly body.