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James's Story

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James Robert "Bob" Johnson, 62, passed away peacefully in his home, his wife by his side, on Sept. 10, 2016, after bravely battling lung cancer for nearly a year. He was born Nov. 26, 1953, in Lebanon, to the now late James W. Johnson and Lois M. (Stewart) Johnson.
On May 22, 1976, Bob married his high school sweetheart, Debbie J. Eaton, in Thorntown; she survives. They observed 40 years of marriage this past May.
Bob grew up on a small farm in rural Thorntown, and was a 1972 graduate of Thorntown High School. During high school Bob excelled in both track & field and basketball. He was named one of the top 100 basketball players in Indiana his senior year, as well as leading scorer of Boone County his junior year. He received numerous offers to continue his basketball career in college, but ultimately decided to pursue a career in mechanical engineering.
Bob received his Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University in May of 1976. During his senior year at Purdue, he used his mechanical ingenuity to build a go-cart, which he qualified and drove in the 1976 Purdue Grand Prix.
After graduating from Purdue, Bob first worked for a year as a mechanical engineer with Allis-Chalmers Corporation in Milwaukee, Wis. He then transferred to Allis Chalmers Corp. in LaPorte, Ind., and worked another year there before joining TRW Ross Gear in Lafayette. Bob started out at TRW as an engineer in the sales department. He later worked as a product engineer before becoming chief engineer of mechanical steering system design. During Bob's years at TRW, he invented various improvements to commercial vehicle steering systems and authored four United States patents. He retired from TRW, after 37 years of employment, in April 2016.
Bob enjoyed spending time with his family and attending his four children's various school functions and sporting events. He became a pole vault coach at McCutcheon High School, and proudly coached his son, Adam, to regional champion, and to both current city/county pole vault record holder and high school record holder. Bob later coached pole vaulting at West Lafayette High School, where he coached his daughter, Kara.
Coaching pole vaulting became Bob's passion. He thoroughly enjoyed working with West Lafayette head coach Lane Custer and the WL track team. Throughout his track coaching career, he coached 13 athletes to the state finals.
Bob's favorite hobby was fishing. He always looked forward to spending time fishing with his TRW friends/co-workers. They went on many fishing trips over a 25-year span that resulted in many happy memories and long-lasting friendships.
Surviving with his wife, Debbie, are his three sons, Ryan R. Johnson of Lafayette, Adam T. Johnson (companion Nicole) of Arvada, Colo., and Derek J. Johnson of Hermosa Beach, Calif.; and his daughter, Kara N. Johnson of St. Kitts. Also surviving are his sister, Sue (Jim) Mennen of Frankfort; his brother, David (Liz) Johnson of Lafayette; his sister-in-law, Sharon Eaton Wendel of Marlton, N.J.; and many nieces and nephews.
Bob was kind, talented and intelligent, and was a good friend to all who knew him. He was a devoted husband and father, and will be sorely missed.
A celebration of Bob's life will be held in December at Soller-Baker Lafayette Chapel.
Online condolences may be made at www.soller-baker.com.
Published on September 13, 2016
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