Davis W. Johnson, 1966

Spring 2021 (May 13, 2021)

Davis W. Johnson of Decorah died March 27, 2021, age 76.

Davis W. Johnson, age 76, of Decorah, Iowa, died Saturday, March 27, 2021, peacefully in his sleep surrounded by his loving family at home, after a courageous battle with cancer.

Private Family Funeral Services were held April 2, 2021, at Washington Prairie Lutheran Church in rural Decorah, with Rev. Dr. Jennifer Edinger officiating. Burial will be in the church cemetery.

Public visitation was held April 1, 2021, at Fjelstul Funeral Home in Decorah.

Davis Wayne Johnson was born May 22, 1944, in Decorah, Iowa, to Vernon and Lillian (Tollefson) Johnson. He was baptized and confirmed at Washington Prairie Lutheran Church. Davis attended school in Decorah and graduated in 1962. While there he earned numerous varsity letters in four sports. After high school, he attended Luther College graduating in 1966. He was an All-American wrestler and went 32-0 in dual meets—never losing a match in Luther’s gym. He was a three-time Iowa Conference champion and a three-time champion of the prestigious All-Lutheran tournament held on Luther’s campus.

After graduating from Luther College, Davis served one year as the head wrestling and track and field coach at Chatfield, Minn., before beginning a 14-year stint at Maquoketa High School, in Maquoketa, Iowa. Davis’ reputation as a class act and outstanding wrestler preceded him to Maquoketa inspiring his peers to refer to him as “The Luther Legend.” While in Maquoketa Davis served as head wrestling coach and boys cross country coach. He also taught physical education and was head of that department for eight years. During his time in Maquoketa, he earned his M.A. in safety education from Central Missouri State.

Davis married his high school sweetheart Shirley Rovang on June 25, 1966, at Washington Prairie Lutheran Church. While living in Maquoketa, they were blessed with two sons Darin Scott and Devin Jace. They were active in the community there but welcomed the chance to move home to the family farm.

In 1983, Davis rejoined the Luther Community when he accepted the position as Luther’s head wrestling coach. During his 13 years as coach, he coached 18 wrestlers to 21 All-American honors and his teams were ranked in the top 20 in the nation ten of those years. Davis coached four NCAA national runner-ups, two of which were in 1990. While at Luther he also served as Luther’s women’s golf coach from 1991-1996. Again, his teams excelled and placed in the top six in the nation each of his years as coach.

After earning his administrative degree from Winona State, Davis spent one year as the North Winneshiek High School principal. His educational career came full circle when he accepted the position as Decorah High School’s associate principal and activities director. While at Decorah, he helped hire and lead staff and students that won 47 Northeast Iowa Conference Titles in 14 different sports and six state championships in four different sports. His sense of service to the community of Decorah and the mission of educational based athletics was second to none. That service always centered around the young people that our systems should be designed to serve.

In his retirement, he was truly a steward of the land. He was known for planting and harvesting “Johnson” sweet corn. The family gathered and bagged 200 quarts annually. Davis loved to collect Winchester memorabilia and was never one to miss a chance at a competitive game of euchre. By all accounts, he was considered an expert hunter, teaching the love and respect of hunting to all who knew him. He organized and worked tirelessly to ensure a great hunting experience for the Johnson Deer Camp in December. What a blessing it was to teach his grandchildren the importance of loving God’s land and respecting nature. They could not have had a better teacher!

He was preceded in death by his parents, Vernon and Lillian, his brother Dennis Johnson ‘70, his mother and father-in-law Vernon and Delores Rovang.

Davis is survived by his wife, Shirley (Rovang) Johnson ‘66; his two sons, Darin Johnson ‘91 (Misty) and Devin Johnson ’95 (Carmen (Christopherson) Johnson ‘94); his grandchildren, Jace, Emma, Dakota, Dillan, Demi, Griffin and Gavin; his siblings Wanda (Ron) Hemesath and Mark Johnson, sister-in-law, Linda Johnson; brother and sister-in-law Bruce and Betty Schuman; and by numerous nieces and nephews.

A Memorial Fund has been established to honor Davis.