Remembering Father Henry Joseph “Joe” Johnson

Father Henry Joseph “Joe” Johnson

February 17, 1932 – December 12, 2019

Father Joe passed away from pneumonia at age 87 on December 12, 2019.  His health had been declining for the last five years due to progressive neurologic problems that affected his memory and ability to walk.  During that time, he lived and felt very much at home under the care of the nuns at Marycrest Manor in Culver City, California.  

Father Joe was born in Southern California and grew up near Pasadena.  His father worked for the Pacific Electric railroad and enjoyed good health well into his 90s. Father Joe held both his parents in high regard, always speaking of them in reverent terms in regard to their character and demeanor.  Father Joe’s interest in pursuing the priesthood was inspired by his uncle who was also a priest. 

Father Joe taught chemistry for a few years, was an excellent mathematician, and read Greek and Latin. Even though Father Joe was intellectually gifted, I never sensed in him even the slightest whiff of arrogance. He probably coined the following aphorism during his chemistry years: “Pride is like carbon monoxide, invisible, odorless, and completely deadly.”

He studied for a BA in chemistry at Loyola Marymount University while he was in residence at a parish in Beverly Hills. After graduating he taught chemistry at Our Lady Queen of Angeles Minor Seminary for ten years. Subsequently, starting in the early 1980s, he worked as a parish priest at St. Patrick’s in North Hollywood for about six years. After which he worked at St. Cyril’s in Encino, California.

I first met Father Joe in the office of Dr. Robert Leibowitz in the San Fernando Valley, where I was working in the early 1990s.  These were the early years when the internet was only used by academic institutions and Father Joe was helping the office do online searches. After Father Joe left Dr. Leibowitz’s practice, I invited him to join Dr. Strum and me at Prostate Oncology Specialists.     

He retired from fulltime parish work in the 1990s. After which I had the privilege of seeing Father Joe almost daily for 20 years as he volunteered in our medical office.  For a number of years, Father Joe lived on a boat in the marina and every morning he would walk across the street to our medical office to encourage our staff and visit with the men and their families who were fighting prostate cancer.  During his time at Prostate Oncology Specialists, he wasn’t only a blessing to patients, but his intelligence was also a blessing to the staff: when our office encountered a growing demand for statistical assistance for clinical research, Father Joe taught himself medical statistics and bailed us out. 

He was greatly beloved at the practice—his listening ear combined with his background in chemistry, along with his interest in prostate cancer, provided a gentle and comforting presence to counterbalance the intensity of a busy medical office. New patients were often confused by the sight of a Catholic priest wandering down the halls of their new oncology office, but they were quickly put at ease by his gentle and warm persona. Father Joe truly loved people and all those in his presence could sense it. He was a great source of comfort and hope for many men and families facing difficult times.

Over the last five years of his life, even with his personal struggles, Father Joe continued to be a blessing and an encouragement to the people who he lived with at Marycrest Manor. Father Joe and I were witness to a miracle at Marycrest.  Together we watched as the nuns overcame the tremendous challenges they faced when caring for the lonely, the disabled, and the dying.  We had the pleasure to discover that Marycrest, located on a hilltop in Culver City, is a beacon of light and unequivocal evidence of God’s gracious ability to redeem potentially hopeless circumstances.

We are saddened by the loss of our dear friend but look to practice the love, hope, and selflessness that Father Joe embodied. 

A Mass and burial arrangement will be held at 11:00 AM on Saturday, January 11, 2020 at Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery in Culver City, California.  

14 thoughts on “Remembering Father Henry Joseph “Joe” Johnson

  1. Paul Briner Reply

    Over the 17 years of my treatment at Prostate Oncology Specialists, I looked forward to each visit to have a few minutes to sit and talk with Father Joe. We could talk of many things and we even had a few things in common like living on a boat, and I loved his collection of slide rules. They brought back memories. I miss him.

  2. George Gigliotti Reply

    May Father Joe rest in peace Amen. I talked to him briefly two or three times at the office and he was a very pleasant person.He checked in to see how I was doing and always offered encouragement. I am sorry for your loss and know because of his compassion and uplifting approach to people in need he will be rewarded in heaven. I will pray for him.

  3. Stevew Wieczorek Reply

    God Bless Father Joe and all those that were blessed by him.

    Father Henry Joseph “Joe” Johnson

  4. Scott Kelly Reply

    I was so excited to see him there on my first visit. He was a great presence in the office. Thanks for having him there

  5. Errol and Beaterix Rendall Reply

    When my wife and I first walked into the practice and met Father Joe , like many we were pleasantly surprised to find a man of God there. In Europe where we live this would be highly unusual. But we were quickly delighted to be able to share our faith with him and realize his level of compassion for the patients he was helping. There can be no doubt that he would have brought much comfort to the many he met every day through his witnessing of the love of Jesus. He was indeed carrying out the great commission that Jesus gave us to bring the good news to the whole world. He will surely be sorely missed by those that were close to him and we offer our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.

  6. Daniel Biner Reply

    We will miss Father Joe!
    I always looked forward to seeing Father Joe on my many appointments, We had a lot in common with being the same age and a very familiar Catholic background and living in the Los Angeles area.
    The last contact with him was sending him a book on Cora Evans, a recent Servant of God and he was happy to receive it.
    May he rest in Peace, Daniel J Biner

  7. Ben A. Dalby Reply

    Father Johnson, as I knew him, was a parrish priest and visible figure at the parochial school which I attended in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. You can imagine my surprise when I met him again so many years later in the offices of Prostate Oncology Specialists. What a gentle man.
    God bless his soul in heaven.

  8. Ted Heckman Reply

    On my first visit to the office my wife and I met Father Joe. Each time we came we got to have nice conversations with him. We definitely missed him on one of the visits and asked about him and were told he was having difficulty and couldn’t come to share his warmth and wisdom. Last visit we asked and were told he passed on December 12. He was a wonderful man and will be missed but he makes us aware how important sharing yourself is. He truly cared about people.

  9. Sam Gould Reply

    I will miss Father Joe. He was a charming and calming presence in the office. I will miss him.

    Sam C. Gould, M.D.

  10. ROBERT & CATHY FILOSA Reply

    My husband Bob & I had the privilege of spending much time being ministered to by Fr. Joe as we visited Prostate Oncology Specialists for many years. He was always inspiring, encouraging and very caring toward the two of us. He will be missed but he now has a special place in Heaven.

  11. Alan Knox Reply

    I also remember Father Joe. I thought how rare it was for him to be in a doctor’s office talking to patients. His genuine interest in my well being was striking. He didn’t push religion at all; in fact, I didn’t know he was Catholic until Dr. Scholz posted his eulogy. Father Joe was easily likable. As I got used to talking to him, his goodness was unmistakable.
    When I was in junior high school, one of the things we had to do was pick out someone whom we thought was “noble” and write an essay about the person. At the time, I didn’t know what “noble” was, but I learned. Father Joe was truly a noble person. Rest in peace.

  12. Gary Page Reply

    Father Joe was a humble, good-spirited man and until you sat and spoke with him you would not know the depth of his intelligence and the vast areas of knowledge that he possessed. He always took the time to speak with me whenever I came in for an appointment at the center and his calming demeanor would always alleviate any anxiety I be having while being there.

    Rest in peace, Father Joe.

  13. Calvin A. Schuler Reply

    I recall many visits with Father Joe during my treatment phase. He always had time for everyone. I missed him after he was no longer able to come. Rest in peace.

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