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Epilogue | Carl Johnson

Prankster never joked about true feelings

Together, Carl Johnson and his three sons — Kevin, Brent and Mark — were practically an army.

When the Johnson men got it in their minds to pull a really devilish prank on Carl's best friend Frank Nixon, he was largely at their mercy.

When Nixon mentioned one year that he wanted a new boat, the Johnsons found a rusted-out boat and dumped it on his front lawn for Christmas. Frank's Dream, as they dubbed it, sat on his lawn for days.

When he saw it, "I knew it wasn't Santa Claus," said Nixon, 64, of Tarpon Springs.

• • •

Mr. Johnson got a kick out of playing tricks on loved ones. He stuck toy snakes in his sons' sock drawers. He and Nixon razzed each other about who had a better toilet or cleaner swimming pool.

He savored the quality time with friends and relatives. He insisted on vacationing together at least once a year. He made his sons clear their sports schedules and piled them in the RV, plane or boat. Even as adults, his children were always welcome to join him and his wife.

They went west one year, to California and the Grand Canyon. They visited campgrounds in North Carolina. They flew to the Virgin Islands and chartered a 50-foot catamaran.

"It was like heaven on Earth" for him, said daughter-in-law Leanne Johnson, 29, of Tarpon Springs.

Sometimes Mr. Johnson was captain; other times he let his sons take the wheel while he jumped on the water skis, fished or scuba dived. He loved any opportunity to kick back and relax.

• • •

Mr. Johnson liked to say he inherited a strong Swedish work ethic. But he was more than just a dentist to the patients who came to his practice.

"I knew people that didn't like going to the dentist who liked going to Carl," Nixon said.

Patients opened up to him because he wore his emotions on his sleeve. Once he cried in front of a woman because he was upset over dropping his youngest son off at the University of Tennessee.

In turn, they confessed their problems. He listened intently and did not force them out of the dentist's chair when the time was up.

"He always knew how to put his arm around you at the right time, and make you feel at peace, and encourage you to enjoy life for the moment," Leanne Johnson said.

In 2005, he was diagnosed with cancer. His back and leg were in pain, but he continued working. Cancer did not affect his work ethic, or his compassion. He died July 6.

>>BIOGRAPHY

Carl Johnson

Born: Sept. 3, 1944.

Died: July 6, 2008.

Survivors: wife, Sharon; sons Brent, of Atlanta, and Kevin and Mark, of Tarpon Springs; brother Stanley, of Illinois; sister Betty Tomlinson, of Lakeland; and four grandchildren.

Prankster never joked about true feelings 07/11/08 [Last modified: Friday, July 11, 2008 10:06pm]
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