Sunday, June 21, 2020, Chris Johnson, loving husband, father, Papa, and devoted friend of many died at the age of 62 surrounded by his wife Monica, children, and dear friends.
Chris was born on November 6, 1957, in Medford, Ore. to Dale and Alice Johnson. Chris’s family found their way to La Junta, Colorado where he attended La Junta High School and graduated with the class of 1976. After graduating Chris attended Phoenix Technical school, becoming a certified mechanic. Chris soon realized that his passion was serving and protecting which led him to his lifelong career in law enforcement. After serving for a number of years on the La Junta Police Department reserves, he began working at the Otero County Sheriff’s Office as a Deputy Sheriff in 1979. While serving the people of Otero County, Chris met his future wife Monica who was also working at the Sheriff’s office. He became Undersheriff in 1985. After feeling the Lord calling him to run for Sheriff, he was elected to office in 2002 and continued to serve until his first retirement in 2014.
During his career in law enforcement Chris was appointed to the Governors Coroner Board. He served as a Board member for the Colorado Peace Officers and Standards Committee, and was a member of the National Sheriffs Association and Western State Sheriffs Association. He was awarded the Cattlemen’s Law Enforcement of the Year award. He was proud of the work he did with Chief Todd Quick of the La Junta Police Department to help build a SWAT and tactical team.
After retiring from the Sheriff’s Office he accepted the position of Executive Director of the State Sheriffs Association from 2014 to 2019. He had served as the President of County Sheriffs of Colorado, and had been devoted to the organization for over 20 years. As the Executive Director he was able to use his experience and ability to create trusting friendships to open doors for him to lead legislative issues on behalf of the sheriffs in the Colorado Legislature.
He had a passion to find resources for people suffering from mental illness, and was asked to serve on state committees to address, what he felt, was a crisis. He championed the need to provide dignified services for individuals with mental health illnesses who were being placed in jail and not receiving the help they desperately needed. Chris left the State Sheriffs’ Association to enjoy a retirement and spend more time with friends and family.
When Sarah and Ryan became involved in swimming, he became a referee - cheering for all of the kids, and making sure they were safe.
Chris became a 2nd grade substitute teacher with the Strasburg school district, where his wife Monica is the Superintendent. Working with children really ignited a spark in Chris; he would proudly proclaim that his class was the best and would eagerly wait to be called back to spend another day with them. Chris also found joy in driving a school bus, picking up the children of Strasburg and taking them to school was a highlight of each of his mornings. Chris will always be remembered as a gentle giant with a large heart, a man that children knew would love and protect them.
Chris married Monica (Rafferty) on June 12, 1982. Through his marriage with Monica, Chris became a devout Christian working actively in the First Presbyterian Church in La Junta. After Chris and Monica moved to the Denver area, God led them to New Song Community Church, where they found wonderful friendship and fellowship.
Chris was preceded in death by his father, Dale, mother, Alice, and sister Dayle. He is survived by his wife Monica; daughter Sarah (John) Hardwick; son Ryan (Julia) Johnson. His life became complete when he took on his greatest title, Papa; to his two granddaughters, Evelyn Johnson and Natalie Hardwick. Two little girls who wrapped their big Papa around their little fingers.
Services will be held on Wednesday July 1, 2020 at 10:00 a.m. at the La Junta High School Stadium. 1817 Smithland Ave., La Junta, CO 81050. Interment will follow the service.
In lieu of flowers the family would encourage you to support the Lift, Young Life of Littleton. A place where kids gather in fellowship to love and serve the Lord. To donate to The Lift, please go to this link:
Then designate your gift to Littleton Young Life-CO179.
Online condolences may be made at www.PeacockFH.com . Peacock-Larsen Funeral Home & Arkansas Valley Crematory is in charge of arrangements.