Obituary: Dennis Johnson

(OC 1944-1951)

Born 5 April 1933, died 27 January 2021

Dennis Johnson came to Caterham on a scholarship during the Second World War. Because of the war he boarded full-time, going home only in the holidays even though the family home was only two bus journeys away. 

After Caterham, National Service might have been something to be endured, but he always appreciated his good fortune in being able to spend the second of his two years’ service in Egypt as a radar mechanic. A particular highlight was flying out into the desert in an Auster aircraft to repair a broken radar set.  

After National Service he spent a year at Shoeburyness experimental establishment, but without a degree opportunities for progression were limited. Through a friend of his father’s he found employment with the insurance firm Lloyds of London, where he would stay for the rest of his working life. Dennis became an expert on non-marine insurance, eventually achieving Fellowship of the Chartered Insurance Institute.  

In 1961 Dennis married Noreen, and they had two daughters, Rosalind and Elizabeth (Liz). The family moved to Kent when Lloyds of London moved his department out of London to a new office in Chatham. Over the years Dennis became increasingly involved in the local community. He acted as churchwarden, chaired the parish council, and was an active member of the village allotment society. A love of sailing saw him study at evening classes for his coastal skipper’s day certificate. Perhaps his greatest involvement, though, came with his service as a magistrate from 1981 to 2003. He had a particular interest in the family court, and in proposals for the reform of family courts nationally. A curiosity to see something of magistrates’ courts in other countries led to Dennis taking part in study tours abroad, learning about legal systems in Gibraltar, Singapore, Vancouver and elsewhere.  

After 30 years in Kent, Dennis and Noreen moved to Wiltshire in 2004 to be closer to their first grandchild. Dennis quickly became involved in the community, serving on the parochial church council, editing the parish magazine, and volunteering for many roles in the local church. With Noreen he enjoyed the theatre and concerts, and many holidays in the UK and Europe.  

Dennis always found time for his family, despite his many activities. He was particularly proud that his two daughters achieved five university degrees between them, and delighted when they both had children of their own. His marriage to Noreen had been a constant source of support for him, and her diagnosis of terminal cancer in 2016 came as a devastating shock. He kept active after her death, including a much-enjoyed lunch in London with other over-60s Old Cats. But life alone became increasingly difficult, and a year after Noreen’s death he chose to move into a nursing home. In this friendly environment he flourished again, becoming actively involved in the life of the home as its librarian, taking part in Sunday morning services, participating in residents’ meetings, and many other activities.  

It would have been deeply frustrating for Dennis to have been inactive, and as he faced the prospect of increasing frailty he was adamant that he did not want his life prolonged unnecessarily. His final illness, after having been diagnosed with Covid-19, was mercifully short, and he passed away peacefully in his own bed.  

In his long life Dennis used his administrative skills for the benefit of many organisations. Local communities need people like Dennis who give selflessly of their time without thought of reward. He will be missed.  

Written by his daughter, Rosalind Johnson