Cover photo for Henry 'Mark' Johnson Iii's Obituary
Henry 'Mark' Johnson Iii Profile Photo
1936 Henry 2022

Henry 'Mark' Johnson Iii

September 23, 1936 — July 20, 2022

Henry Markstone “Mark” Johnson III, of Denver, CO, died peacefully on July 20, 2022. He was surrounded by love.

Mark Johnson was born in Louisville, KY, September 23rd, 1936, to Ruby and Henry M. Johnson, Jr. As a youngster, Mark was an enthusiastic and spirited camper and counselor at Camp Piomingo, and loved train travel with his grandfather. After graduating from Atherton High School in 1954, Mark went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts in 1958 at Transylvania University, studying history, philosophy and English. He loved choir and dancing, and spent a semester in Washington, D.C., at American University. He was also a member of Phi Kappa Tau and Lampas Honorary Fraternity. Moving to New England for further studies, Mark earned his Master of Divinity in 1963, and Master of Sacred Theology in 1964 at Yale Divinity School where he studied with his mentor, H. Richard Niebuhr.

Mark was known for his imagination, lively sense of humor and truly bad puns. Mark had an innate ability to connect with people, and cared about their stories and potential. He went out of his way to encourage others to reach for their dreams. Mark himself was a seeker of new experiences. Independent, idealistic and curious with, in his own words, a “high tolerance for risk,” he would become restless every few years which led to changes large and small.

Mark began his career as a teacher of humanities at Millersburg Military Institute in Kentucky. He taught, and was a housemaster, at The Choate School in Wallingford, CT, now Choate Rosemary Hall. In Wallingford he wed Sally (née Stevens, now Rood) to whom he was married until 1997. Moving to New York State, Mark and Sally lived on campus at Emma Willard School, in Troy, NY, with their young daughters, Kate and Sarah. At Emma Mark taught, advised students, and worked in curriculum development and admissions. He was Director of Development from 1971-1972.

Moving back to Connecticut, Mark became a founding faculty member of the experimental Hammonasset School, in Madison, CT, where he taught from 1973 to 1981. Mark and his family lived on a little farm in Madison and grew much of their own food. Thanks to Mark the whole family learned to milk their Jersey cow, raise chickens and geese, load hay trucks, and even show pigs at the fair. During both the Emma Willard and Hammonasset years Mark and Sally's home was welcoming to faculty, family and friends, and filled with conversation and laughter.

Mark's next adventure after Hammonasset was to buy and run a feed and hardware store in the southern Adirondacks, where the whole family worked. He described Mark's Agway in tiny Lake Luzerne, NY, as “Hard to Find, Impossible to Imitate.” His witty ads in the local paper had the town laughing, and brought in more than one curious visitor. In 1989, Mark shifted gears back to education, moving with Sally to Cornwall, CT, to become headmaster of Marvelwood School. At Marvelwood he facilitated the school's challenging move from Cornwall to a larger campus in Kent, CT. In 1997, Mark followed his heart to the American West, settling in Denver where he savored his view of the mountains. He was a professor at Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design from 1998 to 2004, which connected him with creative and intellectual peers.

With his complex and multifaceted nature, Mark had many interests and additional pursuits. An ordained minister (1961) he officiated a number of weddings for friends. Over the decades he served on multiple boards and committees and was interested in local politics. He wrote an American History textbook in the 1970s entitled Land Of Progress. He was proud of the guide for teachers in the annotated edition of the text where his passion for introducing students to original source material and critical thinking shine through. Mark also worked as a consultant for Browning Associates, the National Humanities Faculty and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. He did graduate work at Wesleyan toward a MALS, sold real estate part-time in the 1970s, and completed both NLP Practitioner certification and Myers-Briggs Type Index certification late in his career.

As time passed, Mark became more contemplative and introverted, but no less inquisitive. He loved the Internet for instant access to news, research and classes, and for connecting with family and friends. On weekends he enjoyed spending quiet time with Liz, his loving partner and helpmate of many years. He began writing his autobiography and found joy in what he felt were miraculous visits of finches and hummingbirds to the feeders on his 11th floor balcony. A voracious reader, he continued to add to his large library of books. Mark's  “in process” reading pile included books on racism, spirituality, poetry, politics and history. A kid at heart, he accumulated boxes and tins of new Crayola crayons, reveling in their scent and potential. His crayon collection and a large jar of marbles were proudly displayed in his entryway.

Mark also worked on what he called “The Johnson Project”. He would set out to find people who seemed sad, overworked, or who were feeling unseen. He made it his loving work to connect, lift spirits and make people smile and feel appreciated, and that project continued until his last hours in hospice.

“My passion in life is to bring hope to people, especially those who are most discouraged; to bring healing to those who are acutely feeling the pain of their circumstances; and to bring laughter to a world bereft of joy.”

Mark's spirituality became more expansive during his life. His connection to the natural world became increasingly conscious. He felt a oneness with the Universe and was awed by the new images arriving from the James Webb Space Telescope, which he continued to ask about and wanted to see even in his last days. During his short time in hospice he spoke of his own surprise that this time of dying was some of his most joyful. There was laughter, delight and depth in his storytelling, the beauty and wonder of birds visiting a feeder outside his window, and the shared awareness of the true gift of time with loved ones.

Mark was preceded in death by beloved younger sister and dear friend, Volindah. He leaves behind his daughters, Sarah Johnson (partner George Craig), of Killingworth, CT, and Kate Johnson (husband Doug Sutherland) of Hancock, NH; grandchildren Zack Gomez, Adam Gomez and Della Sutherland;

and devoted long-time partner, Liz Van Ingen. Also missing Mark are friends, colleagues, and countless former students. The family sends special thanks to those who showed such deep caring and kindness in Mark's last weeks and months. In particular there were some big-hearted neighbors and friends, as well as a team of amazing professionals and volunteers at Porter Hospice Residence.

Donations in Mark's memory may be made to Books for Prisoners programs, Porter Hospice Residence, Centennial, CO, or plant a tree onetreeplanted.org.

Please visit the memorial site for H. Mark Johnson at https://www.mykeeper.com/profile/HenryMarkstoneJohnsonIII/

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Henry 'Mark' Johnson Iii, please visit our flower store.

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