New state deputy transformed by faith

Gary Johnson will become state deputy of the Alberta Knights of Columbus on July 1.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Gary Johnson will become state deputy of the Alberta Knights of Columbus on July 1.

May 9, 2011
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Gary Johnson of St. Albert is the new leader of the 17,000 Knights of Columbus in Alberta and the Northwest Territories.

Johnson, 64, was elected state deputy at the Knights’ convention in Calgary April 29 to May 1. He was state secretary prior to the election.

About 500 people, including voting delegates and guests, attended the convention and banquet at the Coast Plaza Hotel and Conference Centre.

Johnson, who ran unopposed for the top post, replaces Neil Gannon of Edmonton.

“I’m very humbled,” he said. “The fact that no one ran against me made me feel very good.”

Elected to the state board along with Johnson were Bill Smith as state secretary, Charles Russell as state treasurer, Ron Schuster as state advocate and Vince Reyes as state warden.

Born in Prince Albert, Sask., Johnson’s family moved to Edmonton in 1953 and he has lived in the Edmonton area for the past 58 years, with the exception of 1989-91, when he lived in Oshawa, Ont.

In 1972, he met Evelyn Blais, a French Canadian who was also born in Saskatchewan. They married and raised three children, Michelle, Ann-Marit and Kristoffer. Now Johnson has three grandsons.

Unfortunately, after a courageous six-year battle with cancer, Evelyn died in November 2007, just a month before what would have been the couple’s 35th anniversary.

Johnson is currently a health and safety advisor with the Alberta Construction Safety Association in Edmonton.

MANY GOOD DEEDS

He was recruited to the Knights of Columbus in 1988, while he and his family were members of St. John the Evangelist Parish.

“Although I had heard of the many good deeds of the Knights, I had no idea when I said ‘yes’ how the Knights of Columbus would become such an intricate part of our lives over the next 23 years,” he says.

Over the years Johnson has been a member of three councils: Archbishop O’Leary in Edmonton, St. Mary of the People in Oshawa and, for the past 20 years, Brother Anthony Council in St. Albert.

He has held various positions at the council level and then moved through the positions of the state board. He has been an active member of the first degree initiation team in the role of grand knight for more than 21 years.

BIG SHOES

Johnson will take over as state deputy from Gannon at the end of June. “I have some pretty big shoes to fill,” he chuckled.

Faith is paramount in Johnson’s life.

“Especially having lost the love of my life, it’s been my faith that has kept me going through all of this,” he says.

He is involved with his parish, Holy Family Parish, having served as eucharistic minister, reader and member of the parish council. He and his wife worked in marriage preparation for several years.

“My good Lord has given me my faith and Father McGivney, our founder, a priest who died way too young, is my guiding light. I pray to him often.”

LIFE-CHANGING

During the memorial Mass at the convention, Johnson read out the names of 201 brother knights who died during the past Columbian year. Bringing new members in to fill out these vacancies and ensure growth is one of his goals.

“To keep doing all of our good works, we have to really make sure that we are offering every Catholic gentleman the opportunity to come and join us,” he said.

“It definitely changes your life forever. It changed mine in so many ways.”

Added Johnson, “Now we have to make ourselves a little more visible so that we can offer what we have to younger men and their families and make sure that we survive (as an organization).”

The Knights also awarded several awards during their convention. Following are the some of the award winners: