Sioux Falls, SD
Ronald “RJ” Johnson will be remembered as more than a victim.
The day he died he wasn’t even scheduled to work. He was called in because the State Penitentiary was short handed. It was also Johnson’s 63rd birthday. But his family says he went to work anyway because that was the kind of man he was.
They remember him as a dedicated family man who meant so much to his wife, children and grandchildren.
"It's just like yesterday, but it's like an eternity how empty my heart is now without him," Ron 'RJ' Johnson's wife Lynette Johnson said.
Pictures of Ron Johnson and his wife Lynette sit on the mantle of the couple's home. These and other memories in the Johnson home trigger all kinds of emotions for the family he left behind.
On the one year anniversary of his death, Johnson's family invited KELOLAND News into their home and shared memories of a loving and dedicated father and husband. His daughter says he can never be forgotten.
"Heroes live forever. He respected life and who he was as a person will live forever," Johnson's daughter Toni Schafer said.
Johnson’s children say he never missed his grandchildren's events and he was the kind of dad everyone wants.
"He was a loyal guy. He was always courteous. He was the type of father you wanted to call a father," Johnson's son Jesse Johnson said.
Johnson spent 23 years of his life as a corrections officer. In that time, he earned the respect of the warden, his supervisors and the inmates he was there to watch over.
"That he was a kind, kind hearted man, that he took the time to say 'hi' where some of the other ones it's their job they go and do their job, but Ron would actually just say hi how are you doing," Lynette Johnson said.
"You hear all these stories about inmates giving praise to my father about being nice, having a big heart always caring no matter what it was, what they did. That's who he was at home. It didn't matter if you had a bad day you could sit down at the porch; he was just a kind generous man at home and at work," Jesse Johnson said.
Last April, on the one year anniversary of his death, and what would have been Johnson's 64th birthday, close family and friends visited his gravesite to remember him and release balloons so his grandchildren could celebrate his birthday.