by Stephen A. McNallen
from The Runestone Spring 1999 #25

On December 12 of this last year, Dick Johnson shucked off an ailing, pain-ridden body and departed Midgard. He was 78 years old.

To all but a handful of you, this is not a statement that conveys a lot of meaning – another name, another death; it happens countless times a day. But there is a story here, one relevant to the history of Asatru in Vinland.

After returning from four years of active Army duty, in 1976, I had moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and was living in Berkeley. Upon returning Stateside, I thumbed through the card file of RUNESTONE readers, located a few people in the immediate area, and made tentative approaches toward a meeting.

Dick was the first to respond, and I remember well the day he walked into my upstairs apartment on Channing Way. In the years that followed, his insurance office at 1000 University Avenue became the focus for organized Asatru in the Bay Area. We offered blot in his back room, and met with a few other memorable renegades – people like Hal and Gerald and John – who dared remember the old Gods and Goddesses of our Folk. Sometimes we gathered in nearby Tilden Park, in the Berkeley hills; occasionally we would assemble at places like Rodeo Beach – but Dick was always a constant feature. he was there at the first public Odinblot in Codornices Park, and at the first Althing, in 1980.

It’s a cliche to say that a friend’s wife is charming and his daughters lovely, but in this case it is only the truth. Esther was always a warm hostess, and although Karen and Linda had their own llives and were seldom in evidence, I remember them as two very different, but very attractive, young women.

Dick moved from Berkeley to the nearby community of Richmond, then escaped the Bay Area entirely and took refuge in Klamath Falls Oregon. We didn’t see each other much after that, but we’d exchange the occasional phone call or letter, and I sent him THE RUNESTONE as a matter of course. I knew he was ill with parkinson’s Disease and severe anemia, and the maladies took their toll on him as the years went by.

When Esther’s note arrived to tell me that Dick had died, I was hardly surprised. But I was saddened, and knew that an era had died with him.

Fare well Dick. We’ll all follow you eventually, so save us a seat on the mead benches. The fight continues here, and we’ll be thirsty when we arrive.

Categories: News