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July 13, 1952 - Jan. 11, 2011

John Dennis Johnson was born in the farming community of New Norway, Alberta, the second of three boys born to Verle and Lawrence Johnson. Dennis is survived by his parents; his two brothers, David and Rodger; and numerous nieces and nephews. Dennis attended school in Edberg, Alberta. He spent his high school years at Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School in Red Deer and at Camrose Lutheran College. He then attended the University of Alberta, where he received a Bachelor of Education degree. After a brief time teaching school in Stettler, Alberta, in 1979, Dennis joined the faculty of Red Deer College, where he taught English and Communications.

In 1981, Dennis took on an added challenge that was to define his life from then on. He was appointed Managing Editor, and later Publisher, of Red Deer College Press, and given a tiny budget and a big mandate to rejuvenate a floundering small press. His energy, imagination, and tenacity built for RDC Press a national profile as a publisher in poetry, fiction, drama, cooking, gardening, and travel - but especially children's literature.

In 2000, the growth and evolution of the company, renamed Red Deer Press, led to a relocation to affiliate with the University of Calgary. In 2005, the Press was acquired by Fitzhenry and Whiteside in Markham, Ontario. Dennis continued as Publisher, based in Calgary, until 2007. Afterwards, Dennis remained active as a literary and publishing consultant, while taking time off periodically to enjoy the warmth of Zihuatanejo, Mexico, where he passed away suddenly.

Under Dennis's leadership Red Deer Press was honoured six times as Publisher of the Year by the Book Publishers Association of Alberta, and received over 300 other provincial, national, and international credits, including a Governor General's Award for Children's Literature Illustration by Murray Kimber for Josepha: a Prairie Boy's Story in 1994. Dennis served as President of the Book Publishers Association of Alberta, and was honoured by the City of Red Deer with a Mayor's Special Award in 1992.

Dennis took greatest pride in bringing Canadian stories, especially those from the Prairies, to readers across the country, and around the world, as the books are distributed internationally, and many were translated and re-published in other languages and countries. Countless authors and illustrators benefitted from his gift for discovering and mentoring new talent, and for inspiring his publishing team to do their best work for the sake of the book.

To those of us who knew and loved Dennis, he was fiercely loyal, generous to a fault, and had an indomitable spirit. He loved fine wine and scotch, enjoyed cooking, and loved gardening. As always, he excelled in all that he did. We find consolation in knowing that he spent his last years living where he wanted and doing what made him happy, and that was would matter most to Dennis - his books will live on.

Cremation has taken place. A funeral service will be held on Thursday, January 20, 2011, at 2:00 p.m. from The First Baptist Church, 6406 - 44B Avenue in Camrose, Alberta, (780) 672-4832. with Rev. Patrick Schoeberger officiating. A memorial for friends and colleagues is being planned for Red Deer in February. Memorial contributions may be made to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.

To send condolences and read the full obituary, please visit Burgar Funeral Home, 4817 - 51 Avenue, Camrose, AB, T4V 0V4, is in care of arrangements.

"Dedicated service since 1906".


4817-51 Ave. Camrose, Alberta