COLUMBUS – When Ed Johnson dreamed, he dreamed big. And the results were often as full of life as his voice over early morning radio broadcasts.
Now, his widow Marilyn, now Marilyn Johnson-Masters, is giving one of those dreams a jump-start by revving up the campaign to finish fundraising for the new Nationwide and Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center, including a $100,000 fund to name the center’s Great Hall Reception Area in Ed’s honor.
Special focus. “Through all the years, 4-H was always there,” Marilyn said. “Featuring the youth was Ed’s big thing.”
Marilyn and Ed were both in 4-H in Fairfield County, but it wasn’t until she was a sophomore and he was a senior at Ohio State University when they started dating.
The couple married soon after Ed graduated and was drafted into the Navy. After his discharge, the couple moved to Darke County, then Ed took a job with the Ohio Farm Bureau as organizational director for Fairfield, Pickaway and Ross counties.
That’s when Ed discovered his love of broadcasting, Marilyn said.
“As part of his job, he had to do a weekly radio show on Fridays in Chillicothe. He loved it. He just couldn’t wait for Fridays to come around.”
Behind the mic. In 1965, he talked the owner of radio station WHOK in Lancaster into hiring him as farm director.
He moved to WRFD 18 months later, and started his own Agri-Broadcasting Network in 1974.
Through it all, both Ed and Marilyn were cheerleaders for Ohio 4-H.
“We had so many good memories of 4-H. It was so important to us for our kids to have the same experience,” Marilyn said.
Both children were 4-H members for 10 years, and now her son feels the same strong importance of 4-H for his children – his oldest son – and Marilyn’s oldest grandchild – is now in his first year of 4-H with hogs as a project.
“He was into roots,” Marilyn said. “He saw agriculture as the root of the country, and he saw 4-H as the root of these kids.”
Spearheaded campaign. So, it was no surprise that when Ed was asked to lead the campaign to build a new Ohio 4-H Center on the Ohio State University campus, he enthusiastically said “yes,” Marilyn said.
“I remember when he came home after that first meeting about the center,” Marilyn said. “He was so excited about it. Then, as soon as the first pieces of literature were printed, that’s when he died.”
Sudden death. The larger-than-life personality died suddenly Feb. 12, 2001, at age 63. Afterward, Marilyn accepted the position of honorary chair to see the $12 million campaign through.
At the beginning of 2004, the campaign reached the $10 million mark. Ohio 4-H Foundation leaders are working to help the campaign reach its goal this year so construction of the Nationwide and Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center can begin in 2005, said Nancy Patterson, longtime friend of the Johnsons and member of the fund-raising steering committee.
You can help. After Ed’s death, a special fund was formed as part of the campaign to raise $100,000 for the new center’s Great Hall Reception Area to be named in Ed’s honor.
About $40,000 is needed to complete the memorial fund.
Patterson asks that well-wishers donate:
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