William Edward “Porter Bill” Johnson slipped free his earthly bonds on the evening of Feb. 11, 2013. A resident of Kewanee, he was 69.
Porter Bill was born in Kewanee on Nov. 17, 1943, to Charles William Johnson and his wife Zita Elizabeth Schlindwein. Bill spent his early years in Kewanee attending Visitation Catholic School. His family moved to Los Angeles County, California, in 1955 where Bill attended Verdugo Hills High School. He then moved his young family back to Kewanee in 1969, and worked for such businesses as Hysters, Shelco and owned a welding/painting shop in Sheffield where he worked on automobiles and motorcycles. He was a loving husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather and a loyal member of the Laborer’s Local 852. Such was his belief in local business and the importance of personal relationships that he refused to shop at Wal-Mart for any reason. His passion was for anything outdoors … fishing, hunting, gathering mushrooms and building anything with his hands. He loved Indian history, Harley-Davidsons and Old Milwaukee beer; his friends have been encouraged to sell their investments in Harley and Old Milwaukee.
This country was built by men like Porter Bill Johnson. Not men of higher education, or meek and sensitive manner, but men who landed in the New World with a hoe and an axe and leaned into the tasks at hand. The world we live in today runs counter to every aspect of a man like Porter Bill. Don’t smoke. Don’t drink. Obey the rules. Measure yourself by the size of your TV and your wardrobe. Bill Johnson rejected all of these things. He did things like tear down barns and use the wood to build his home with his own hands. He measured life using family and friends as a measuring stick. Taking a line from John Wayne's final film, "The Shootist," the Duke described himself — and Bill Johnson when he said, “I wont be wronged, I won’t be insulted, and I won’t be laid a hand on. I don’t do these things to other people, and I require the same from them.”
A man of warmth and humor (and strong opinions), Porter Bill possessed a skill only few people knew about: Artistic skills that bordered on amazing. He worked in paint, sketch pencil, woodworking and unique drawings on large faced mushrooms. It was a creative outlet for a man who spent his life working with his hands, and many friends and family treasure the artwork he gifted to them. For those seeking to understand the complexity of a man like Bill Johnson, his daughters agree a viewing of the Clint Eastwood film, "Grand Torino," would be appropriate. Like Eastwood’s character, in Bill Johnson you would find no better friend, yet the heart and nature of a lion toward those who threatened the ones he loved.
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