David L. Johnson, a longtime Billings lawyer, died on May 20, 2021, at age 83. He was born on Oct. 18, 1937, in Dayton, Ohio, the third son of Clarence and Gladys Johnson. He grew up in Kettering, Ohio, graduating in 1955 from Kettering Fairmont High School.
David earned an undergraduate accounting/business administration degree from the University of Cincinnati (UC) in 1961. David had the good fortune of marrying Judith Shriner in 1961. They met at a wedding of a mutual friend when Judy asked him to dance. His acceptance was the best decision he ever made, leading to many happy years of marriage. David and Judy would have celebrated their 60th anniversary in August 2021. David attended law school at Ohio State University (OSU) while Judy taught seventh grade. He was a fan of the UC Bearcats basketball team and the OSU Buckeyes football team. He was admittedly only a fan when the teams did well.
After law school, David and Judy moved to Billings, where Judy had grown up. That began a wonderful career of 57 years at the firm of Crowley Fleck — formerly Crowley, Haughey, Hanson, Toole and Dietrich. David soon found his niche in the area of wills, trusts, estate planning, and estate and gift tax. He especially enjoyed presenting seminars on trust and estate topics. David was elected a Fellow in the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, and was active in the American Bar Association’s Probate and Trust section, becoming friends with many colleagues around the country.
David’s passion for public libraries began at an early age when he bicycled or hitchhiked to the downtown Dayton Public Library. That continued with weekly visits to the Billings Public Library. He was an early supporter of the Billings Public Library Foundation and served as its president and for many years on its finance committee. David was appointed by the governor to the Montana State Library Commission and served as its chairman. He helped other Montana libraries to form endowments; over one-half have since created foundations.
David’s other passion was charitable giving. He encouraged clients to make charitable gifts and provided legal counsel to many charities to form endowments and foundations to achieve financial stability. He served on many boards and was president or chairman of the Yellowstone Art Museum, United Way of Yellowstone County, SCORE, YWCA of Billings Endowment Foundation, and the American Lutheran Church of Billings. He was a board member of the Billings Deaconess Hospital, and he and Judy were proud to be named Friends of the Billings Clinic.
David loved traveling throughout the world with Judy and friends, fly fishing, reading (particularly via his men’s book club), investments, and spending time at the family cabin in Red Lodge. He was the best dad/papa ever, who enjoyed supporting his children’s and grandchildren’s endeavors. He was also kind and welcoming, boosted by a great sense of humor. David’s health challenges began in 1997, and his family, friends and Billings Clinic staff were amazed at his fortitude and good spirits in battling those challenges over the following 23 years.
David was preceded in death by his parents and brothers Keith and Ronald. He is survived by his wife, Judy of Billings; son Kent of Portland, Oregon; daughter Lori of Phnom Penh, Cambodia; daughter-in-law Becky Kaske Johnson; and three grandchildren, Sophie, Brooks and Elliot, all of Portland, Oregon.
Donations in David’s honor may be made to the Billings Public Library Foundation or a charity of your choice.
A funeral service with limited seating will be held at American Lutheran Church at 11 a.m. Saturday, June 5. A reception on the Moss Mansion patio will immediately follow the service. A recording of the service will be available for later viewing.