April 16, 1938 - January 2, 2022
Steven Lee Johnson, beloved husband, father, and Paw Paw left this world while surrounded by family on January 2, 2022, in Kingwood, Texas.
The oldest of four children, Steve was born on April 16, 1938, in Sutton, West Virginia to Lee Barrett and Ruth Johnson. When he was 12, his family relocated to Pecos, Texas, where Steve spent his formative years as a member of the football team, Futures Farmers of America, competing in slide-rule competitions, and losing his teeth trying to take on a tree while on a bicycle. He went on to study Civil Engineering at Texas A&M University, graduating as part of the Fighting Texas Aggie Class of 1961. While at Texas A&M, Steve was a proud member of Squadron 12 and spent a year on the wrestling team.
While a senior at Texas A&M (after he and some buddies convinced a classmate to set them up on dates), he asked Sam Houston State freshman Sally Burton to write to him, as his “mailbox had cobwebs.” This began a courtship that resulted in a 58-year marriage. After informing Steve that she would not marry until she finished college, Steve organized Sally’s class schedule so that she could complete her degree in three years, which she did by taking inordinately heavy class loads. Steve and Sally were married on June 8, 1963, in Brookshire, Texas, the week after Sally graduated from Sam Houston.
Steve had an impactful 50-year career as a civil engineer and hydrologist, becoming one of the Houston area’s pre-eminent experts on drainage and flooding. After college, he went to work for the U.S. Geological Survey, where he was instrumental in the installation and management of flood gaging stations throughout the areas. While with the USGS, he co-authored a study that substantially elevated the understanding of the impact of land development on flood flows. In 1977, the USGS relocated Steve to Miami, Florida, where he directed local USGS operations.
Eventually, the pull of Texas was too great, and in 1979 Steve returned to the Houston area, joining a local civil engineering firm that eventually became part of LJA Engineering. As Chief Hydrologist at LJA, Steve took on instrumental roles as a consultant for the Harris County Flood Control District, City of Houston, TxDOT, and many others. Additionally, he had instrumental roles in the development of The Woodlands, including the design of the Lake Woodlands reservoir. At 65, Steve retired. The next Monday, he went back to work as a consultant….in the same office doing essentially the same work. Eleven years later, he “officially retired,” but continued to consult on various work and community projects, including for Kingwood Service Association. Steve was known for his expertise, but also for his integrity and commitment to investing in the careers of others, having a large and lasting impact on many young engineers.
When it came to hobbies and interests, Steve had eclectic tastes. While other retired men might enjoy golfing or fishing, Steve chose to rebuild antique engines and to tinker as an amateur blacksmith. While he and Sally took plenty of cruises and international vacations, he also loved roughing it on numerous gold-mining trips. (He never found much gold, but it wasn’t from lack of trying.) A jack-of-all-trades, Steve could figure out how to do just about anything.
Anybody who knew Steve knew of his faith in God and his quiet commitment to be Jesus’ hands and feet on this earth. Without much fanfare or desire for attention or accolades, he tirelessly poured his life into meeting the needs of others: teaching children in Sunday school, serving in the church nursery, caring for a long list of widows, washing dishes on Wednesday nights – the list is endless. In his retirement, he poured his energy into The Gideons, where he served as an Area Director and provided leadership to hundreds of volunteers in South Texas as they worked to get Bibles into the hands of a world in need of Jesus.
Far and away, Steve’s greatest legacy is his family. He is survived by Sally, his wife of 58 years; sons Burton (wife Pat); and Barrett (wife Jenifer); seven grandchildren, Lindsey Maiocco (Christian), Landon Johnson (Keala), Emilie Bauer (Lucas), Drew Johnson, Bailee Johnson, Blake Johnson, and Maddie Kate Johnson; seven great-grandchildren (Caleb, Carly, Katie Grace, Nalani, Olina, Rose, and Lucy). He is also survived by three siblings, Phil Johnson (Mary), Barbara Whisenhunt (Sam), and Cindy Frakes (Bernie). There is a long list of family members whose lives have been directly impacted by Steve’s life, love, and influence. While not overtly emotional, he was consistently steady in demonstrating Christ-like living and faithful service. He was a tremendous example to all of what it looks like to live a rich life that is focused on building the Kingdom of God.
There will be a reception and viewing on Thursday night, January 6 from 4:00 to 6:00 PM at Darst Funeral Home at 796 Russell Palmer Rd., Kingwood, TX 77339. The family will have a brief private interment on Friday. Then, all are invited to a Celebration of Life service on Saturday, January 8, at 11:00 AM at Kingwood First Baptist Church at 3500 Woodland Hills Dr., Kingwood, TX 77339. A reception will follow at the church. In lieu of flowers, please honor Steve’s life and legacy with a donation in his honor to The Gideons at www.gideons.org/donate. (Use the GideonCard option to leave a message for the family.)
There will be a reception and viewing on Thursday night, January 6 from 4:00 to 6:00 PM at Darst Funeral Home at 796 Russell Palmer Rd., Kingwood, TX 77339. The family will have a brief private interment on Friday. Then, all are invited to a Celebration of Life service on Saturday, January 8, at 11:00 AM at Kingwood First Baptist Church at 3500 Woodland Hills Dr., Kingwood, TX 77339. A reception will follow at the church.