Don Johnson was born in St. Catharines and moved to Toronto at a young age where he worked for a period of time for the Bank of Commerce. After some time, he moved back to the Niagara region where he found employment as an accountant at FosterWheeler.
Don and his wife Katherine raised seven wonderful children here in Niagara Falls all of whom now have children of their own. Sadly Katherine passed away too soon. More recently he spends his time with his very good friend, Ruth Bedell. In the community, Don has become well-known for his hard work, pleasant demeanor, his ballpark and most notably his banjo and repertoire of old favourites. When describing his love for the banjo, Don laughed and explained that he “can pick on the banjo....it doesn’t get mad.” For more than 40 years, Don has taken his banjo to hospitals, home visits, charitable endeavours, community celebrations and parades, playing for an incredible number of people. He was, however, most pleased to describe the shining moment in his volunteer career when he played with Gordie Tap at the Parliament buildings where he was awarded the 1993 Senior of the Year Award in Ottawa. Other accolades include the City’s Civic Pride Award, a Rotary International Paul Harris Fellow Award and, just this past year being given a Lifetime Community Service Award from Mayor Diodati and Members of Council.
Don Johnson currently lives in a house overlooking the ballpark that bears his name. He speaks proudly of the “Over 40" slo-pitch league he started at his Beaverdams Road property in 1976. Years later the City relocated the park, backstop and all, to the old Memorial School property on Emery Street and in 1993 named the park in his honour, the Don W. Johnson Neighbourhood Park. Don makes it a personal responsibility to see that the park is kept in tip top shape for the many “over 40" players who use the park each summer.
Mr. Johnson is a humble pillar of this community; the kind of citizen who makes life better for his fellow Niagara Falls residents and embodies the Canadian spirit of toughness, kindness and charity. Whether through his banjo playing, his years of disciplined, hard work in the community or his continued support of Don W. Johnson Field, Niagara Falls is lucky to have a citizen like Don Johnson.
What is your favourite memory of Canada?
Well, at 90, any memory is a good memory! I loved being the parade marshal in one of the City’s Canada Day Parades, riding in a Cadillac up Morrison Street as we celebrated Canada Day.
What are you most proud of?
My children. We have a massive family and yet we are still a very tight-knit group.
When did your family first come to Canada?
Way back! My ancestors on my dad’s side were Empire Loyalists. My mom’s side (the Boyle family) came from County Cork, Ireland. My grandfather fought in the Boer War before returning to Canada and settling here, where we have been ever since!