Cover photo for Graydon Douglas Johnson's Obituary
Graydon Douglas Johnson Profile Photo

Graydon Douglas Johnson

May 19, 1937 — May 28, 2023

Graydon Douglas Johnson



Graydon Douglas Johnson passed away on May 28, 2023, in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. He was born in Coeur d’Alene on May 19, 1937.  He grew up on the Johnson family homestead, established in 1897. There his Swedish immigrant grandparents, John Peter and Sallye Johnson, built the Meadow View Dairy, later operated by his father, Clarence Johnson, and his mother, Alta Coulson Johnson, who was also an elementary school teacher. Graydon attended the Sherman School and graduated from Coeur d’Alene High School in 1955, North Idaho Junior College, and the University of Idaho, with a B.S. and an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering.

He was employed as an engineer by Boeing Company in Seattle, in North Dakota, and at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. He also worked for the Coeur d’Alene’s Company, where he was the first engineer to design a mine hoist with a ball-screw actuated disc brake. He met Virginia Tinsley (whom he always called “Miss Tinsley”) in 1967, and they were married in 1973. They had two sons, Adam in 1975 and Matthew in 1977. 

Graydon and his lifelong friend, Loren Murphy, enjoyed designing and building whatever they could. They became friends in high school, after discovering they were both building Aqualungs (pre-SCUBA) diving kits, the design of which was published in Popular Mechanics magazine.  In 1966 they became business partners, formed the Murphy Johnson Furniture Manufacturing Company, and built the wooden furniture for the Jackass Ski Bowl lodge. Then their company pre-fabricated all the furniture and the floats for the 1967 World Boy Scout Jamboree and the 1969 National Boy Scout Jamboree at Farragut State Park.  All the pre-fabricating took place in the converted barn of the Meadow View Dairy.

Their company expanded to become the Cougar Bay Company and to specialize in structural steel construction and custom metal fabrication: geodesic domes, handrails for the Kootenai Medical Center, steel framing and handrails for the Coeur d’Alene Resort parking building, dock ramps for area docks, area boat slip covers, handrails for NIC buildings, the University of Idaho library, and the library at the University of California at Davis.  The company also worked with NASA to construct the fiberglass rail-car covers used to transport the solid rocket booster (SRB) for the Space Shuttle. Among the company employees were Adam, Matthew, and nephew Brett Gilbert.  Again, all the construction took place in the converted barn.

One of Graydon’s most notable accomplishments was the design and creation of the mooring system that moves the floating golf green at the Coeur d’Alene Resort Golf Course, the only floating golf green in the world that moves.

While battling Parkinson’s disease for almost twenty years, Graydon continued to invent, design, and dream of an original and unique method for the construction of any mathematically describable structure--homes, bridges, skyscrapers, and bomb-, flood-, earthquake-, and avalanche-resistant structures. During this period he also established a test for the end of his life: if he could not derive the quadratic formula from the quadratic equation, we were supposed to “pull the plug.”  Until two days before his passing, Graydon could still perform the calculation.

Graydon was an enviable story-teller, with a flawless memory and a witty sense of humor.  He loved skiing, boating, swimming, and sailing (his and Murphy’s company sold the first wind-surfers and Hobie Cats in the area).  He had a soft heart for all animals, including his dog Roy and his cat Marshmallow.  He especially loved his sons Adam and Matthew, Adam’s wife, Danielle Muncey Johnson, and his grandchildren, Maylee, little Graydon, and Dallon. . .and Miss Tinsley. After all, he had romantically told her frequently, “You’re built for the long haul.”  He was right.

He is survived by his immediate family, his brother Maurice, nephews Mark Johnson and Brett Gilbert, nieces Katie Hurt and Janet Tinsley, and several cousins, including his double cousin, Keith Johnson (their fathers were brothers and their mothers were sisters). He was pre-deceased by his parents and his sister, Sally Gilbert.

A memorial for Graydon will be planned at a later time.


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