Salvation Army Accepts Johnson Foundation Donation
Twenty years after his death, John A. Johnson continues to have a positive affect on the community. The final sum of Johnson’s 20-year trust was delivered to the Salvation Army’s advisory board on Friday.
“It’s come to a conclusion now,” said John Sellstrom, attorney for the Johnson Foundation.
Over the last two decades the foundation has donated money throughout Chautauqua County to the likes of Prendergast Library, Jamestown Community College and Salvation Army — with the latter receiving more than $3 million.
Sellstrom said one of Johnson’s two major loves were Sweden — Johnson’s home before emigrating — and Jamestown. He said Johnson lived a frugal life, and noted that the only thing Johnson would spend his money on was a new car.
“The only thing that liked to do was to buy a new Buick every three years,” Sellstrom said.
In the 1920s, Johnson immigrated to the United States to meet his brother, Oscar, who had made the voyage years before. Johnson’s brother was a contractor, and on the weekends, when Johnson wasn’t working at Marlin-Rockwell Corporation, he would help his brother build homes.
One of the homes that he ended up building was for Dan Johanson, now chairman of the Salvation Army’s advisory board. According to Johanson, Johnson lived in the same neighborhood as him. Johanson would often see the “frugal” man walk by in blue Dickies pants and a blue button-down short-sleeve shirt.
Board Trustee Gary Kindberg, who lived near the same neighborhood, remembered the same image of Johnson. The conversations would be reserved for simple pleasantries, for the most part. But on occasion Johnson would stop by his yard to play with Johanson’s dog.
Sellstrom said at the time of Johnson’s death in 1996, the quiet man was worth $7 million. “Nobody would have ever believed he would amass that amount of fortune,” he said.
Johnson began investing his savings in retirement and following the death of his brother. Sellstrom said once Johnson bought stock, he wouldn’t sell it.
“He bought it for good and he didn’t trade,” Sellstrom said.
Sellstrom, who at the time was counsel for Sweden in Western New York, met Johnson when he was looking for co-counsel.
“‘If you’re a good enough lawyer for the Swedish government, you’re good enough for me,'” Sellstrom recalled Johnson saying.
Sellstrom would represent Johnson for almost 10 years until his death. Sellstrom would later partner with a New York City company to handle Johnson’s estate. The Johnson Foundation was established with the intent of giving back Chautauqua County, and more specifically Jamestown.
“He was a unique fella’ who dearly love Sweden and dearly loved Jamestown,” Sellstrom said.
As for the Salvation Army, Johanson said it was difficult to put into words what the past 20 years meant for those impacted by the Johnson Foundation. “All these moneys have gone and will continue to go to the human services programming of the Jamestown Salvation Army,” he said. “So the money stays here. The people of this community are benefiting from that.”
The Salvation Army manages a food pantry, domestic violence shelter, emergency disaster relief assistance and Coats For Kids program, among other services.
“There is no single non-for-profit in the city that has as many services provided for human needs as the Salvation Army does,” said Bob Ostrom, secretary for the organization’s advisory board.
Johanson said the money from the Johnson Foundation continues to help the Salvation Army provide all of its services to Jamestown community.