Chronicle: Bruce Johnson, teacher from Lake Geneva, had a great influence | Local News

The extensive personal library and collection of jazz and classical vinyl records are sold by the adult children of a person who had a major influence on my life growing up in Lake Geneva in the late 1950s. This person was Bruce D. Johnson, my English teacher at Badger High School.

Of all my teachers at Lake Geneva and Badger High Schools, there were three who had a great influence on my life – the late Robert Petranek; Phil Gates, who now lives in retirement in Prescott, Arizona; and Bruce Johnson. It was Bruce Johnson who strongly encouraged me to read as many literary classics as possible, to write and to put my thoughts on paper.

Bruce had set up a kiosk in the lobby of Badger High School in which he placed paperback books he had purchased and made them available to students for 25 cents each. I eagerly bought as many books as I could afford using the money I had earned working summers at the American Legion canteen in Library Park.

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Bruce could sometimes be a stern taskmaster as well as an encouraging mentor. I was the sports editor for Badger Bulletin, the student newspaper at Badger High School, and wrote a column, “On the Bench with Pat Quinn.”

In one of my columns, I criticized Badger High School basketball coach Duane Morris for picking his favorites for the basketball team. Bruce called me into his office and fired me as the sports editor of the Badger Bulletin. Of course, I despised Bruce for firing me. It took a while for my anger towards Bruce to dissipate. It was only in retrospect years later that I recognized how much of a positive influence Bruce had had on my life. Forty-eight years later, in 2008, when I returned to Lake Geneva after retiring as an academic archivist at Northwestern University, I reestablished my relationship with Bruce Johnson. I frequently went to his house at 1012 Madison St. in Lake Geneva and discussed literature, politics and history with him.

For some reason, he always denied firing me as the sports editor of the Badger Bulletin. But it didn’t matter as far as I was concerned and it didn’t affect our renewed relationship. It wasn’t until I attended the event celebrating Bruce’s 90th birthday that I fully realized how much of a positive influence Bruce had had on my life.

Bruce Johnson was born in Fennimore in 1927. He graduated from Fennimore High School in 1945 and served in the United States Navy in 1945 and 1946.

In 1951, he graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a BS in dairy science. Bruce married Beverly Adkins in Fennimore in 1951. They eventually had four daughters, Diane, Debra, Dorian and Denise, and one son, David. In 1951-1953, during the Korean War, Bruce served in the United States Army in Kobe, Japan. From 1953 to 1955, he owned and operated the Fenway Café in Platteville. In 1956, he taught at the Lab School of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and at Platteville High School.

In 1957, he graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville with a Bachelor of Science in English and Education and attended the University of Minnesota during the summer. In 1957 and 1958, he taught English at the Osseo-Fairchild high school in Osseo. And from 1958 to 1986, when he retired, he taught English at Badger High School on Lake Geneva.

In 1960, Bruce and Beverly Johnson bought and moved into a house at 1012 Madison St. Ironically, the house belonged from 1901 to 1919 to my great-grandfather, Michael Quinn. Between 1958 and 2016, Bruce was active in Lake Geneva civic and community affairs; wrote over 250 columns for the Lake Geneva Regional News and other local newspapers; wrote 1,487 essays; and published a book, “And Gladly Would He Teach and Learn”, in 2020. On November 4, 2021, Bruce Johnson died at the age of 94. He was an exceptional person whom I was fortunate to have known during a formative period in my life.

Patrick Quinn is a native of Lake Geneva who is University Archivist Emeritus at Northwestern University.

Of all my teachers at Lake Geneva and Badger High Schools, there were three who had a great influence on my life – the late Robert Petranek; Phil Gates, who now lives in retirement in Prescott, Arizona; and Bruce Johnson. It was Bruce Johnson who strongly encouraged me to read as many literary classics as possible, to write and to put my thoughts on paper.

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