Former 8th district Congressman Jay Johnson died Saturday of anapparent heart attack. A family spokesperson says Johnson, a formertelevision anchor at WLUK-TV, was at home in suburban WashingtonD.C. when he collapsed. His wife JoLee was with him when he died.Johnson was 66 years old.
"I don't think I've ever worked with anybody who was morepatient than Jay," said Danielle Bina, who worked with Jay Johnsonfor more than a decade, at both WLUK-TV and WFRV-TV.
Johnson spent 32 years as a journalist. His broadcasting careertook him all across the country. Besides his work in Green Bay,Johnson also worked in Florida and Michigan. He even spent time asa disc jockey in Texas.
"He would walk up to anybody, anywhere and start up aconversation," Bina recalled. "He loved people, he absolutely lovedpeople," Bina said. She also said she looked up to her co-anchorand will always remember Johnson's sense of humor.
"He had all these sayings," Bina said. "When he put on a fewpounds he would call it his 'anchor muscle' and he'd say everybodyshould put this on because it helps you support your breath whenyou're on the air and we'd all go yeah Jay, have another doughnutyou know. But he was so good natured about it. He was just adelightful human being all the way around."
Many people knew Johnson from his days on the news. But thosewho knew him best, say there was much more to him.
"He was a much broader, wider range person than most people knewor would give him credit for," said Paul Willems, who worked onJohnson's congressional campaigns and on his congressional staff.Willems said Johnson loved music and theater. Willems saidJohnson's popularity propelled him from the anchor desk toCongress.
"He was a trusted figure and I think that's why he was elected,"Willems said. "People certainly didn't vote for him based on hispolitical experience. They knew him and they trusted him."
Johnson was elected to Congress as a Democrat in 1996. InCongress, Johnson served on the House Transportation andAgriculture committees. He served one term before losing toRepublican Mark Green in 1998. Sidney Vineburg, chairman of theDemocratic party for the 8th Congressional District, said that losswasn't easy for Johnson.
"I think Jay really missed having been only a one termCongressperson," Vineburg said. "I think he really felt there was alot more he could do."
After he left Congress, Johnson became the director of the U.S.Mint, a post he held for about one year. His most recent positionwas with Jay Johnson Coins and Consulting where he developed amajor wholesale coin sales program for a national bank. Johnsonworked as a consultant and returned to the airwaves, this time,promoting gold.
While Johnson is now gone, his memory will live on in the livesof those he knew.
"I'm sad," Bina said. "It just isn't the same without him."
Johnson served in the United States Army as an informationspecialist from 1966-1968.
Away from work, Johnson served on the boards of severalnon-profit organizations, including the Family Violence Center inGreen Bay, Easter Seals of Wisconsin, United Way of Brown Countyand Wisconsin United Way.
Funeral arrangements for Johnson are still beingfinalized.
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The city's school board has decided to move ahead with a multi-million dollar referendum.
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