Benjamin “Ben” David Johnson, 16, of Fleming Island, Florida, passed away Thursday, September 21, 2017, two days after collapsing in a place he knew so well: his high school’s weight room.
Born in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, Ben spent his first 9 years in the land of hockey and snowmen, surrounded by dozens of cousins (he has 91!). But when his family decided to move to Florida, he could hardly wait for the sunshine, warmer weather, and more time to play his outdoor sports. And play, he did.
As a 6’3” sophomore at Fleming Island High School, Ben was an offensive lineman on the football team and a pitcher and first baseman on the baseball team. He was never happier than on the field or the family-room couch, watching a game. He was truly an athlete at heart. A formidable one. Ben’s massive frame, hard work, natural leadership, and endless dedication made him an asset to his teammates.
And the only thing bigger than Ben’s presence was his heart.
He was a fiercely protective big brother to Tommy (13) and Rachel (11), as gentle and kind as he was strong. Ben loomed over Tommy in size and age, but still invited him to hang out with his high school friends regularly. When Ben was old enough to think about girlfriends (but not quite ready to have one) he told his mom he hoped he’d meet a girl someday who was just like his sister, Rachel.
With his confidence, charisma, and kindness, people were drawn to Ben. Many close friends trusted him deeply, and many more just loved being around him. Ben was a mix of poise, leadership, respect, and laughter (usually dripping with sarcasm).
Yet simply being liked was never Ben’s motivation. He wasn’t interested in fitting anyone’s mold. His friendships spanned all boundaries, and his faith motivated his choices.
One of Ben’s signature looks was his “Christ’s Church” shirt. Anyone who knew Ben for more than a week has seen it. He wore it everywhere, just as he wore his love for Jesus on his sleeve. Ben lived with the assurance that Jesus’ love and sacrifice covered his life, and that he’d one day spend eternity in heaven.
That day came sooner than any of us expected, but we are grateful to know that our Big Ben is home with his Savior.
In his final act of kindness and sacrifice, Ben was able to give a life-saving gift to at least four other people who are benefiting from his organ donations. It gives us so much peace to know that other families are celebrating life because of his generous gift.
Ben is survived by his parents, Aaron and Tricia Johnson; brother, Tommy Johnson; sister, Rachel Johnson; Grandparents, Robert and Lorraine Torola and Jane Johnson; aunts and uncles, Brian (Jean) Torola, Sandra (Joel) Koivisto, Karen (Jeffrey) Kipela, Anne (Fred) Heinonen, Maria (Paul) Lampinen, Lisa (Glenn) Niemi, Bruce (Sandy) Torola, Kristin (Elden) Tervo, Sarah (Maruice) Neimela, David Torola, Barbara (Mark) Ylitalo, Cristie (David) Maki Goldberger, Daniel (Bethany) Johnson, and Emily (Kenneth) Haataja; and 91 first cousins. Ben is preceded in death by his grandfather, Philip Johnson; aunt, Kristy Johnson, uncle, Nathan Johnson; and cousin, Joseph Tervo.
Funeral Services will be held Monday, September 25, 2017 at 3pm at Christ’s Church Fleming Island. Visitation with the family will be Sunday, September 24, 2017 from 5-7pm, also at Christ’s Church Fleming Island. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations are made in Ben’s memory to Rapha House, https://raphahouse.org/donate
Arrangements are under the care of Russell Haven of Rest Cemetery, Funeral Home and Cremation Center, 2335 Sandridge Road, Green Cove Springs, FL 32043.
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