Bud Johnson, 1914 - 2010


Burton “Bud” Hartwell Johnson passed away January 28 in his Petaluma home. Bud lost his sweet Carolyn just two years ago, and now has joined her and his son Richard in the heavens. We know he is thankful for the support of family and friends that cared for him through the final years, allowing him to remain at home and surrounded by family in his passing.

Bud was a native Californian, born in San Francisco August 9, 1914. He moved to Berkeley in 1920, where he attended school. Following high school, Bud traveled around the world as a ship attendant and kept a meticulous diary, which we continue to enjoy today.

Upon his return he attended San Francisco State College, where he was nominated for class president in 1938. He graduated in 1939 with a Bachelor’s of Arts and teaching credentials. He later attended UC Berkeley for a secondary degree in counseling. In 1939, Bud married his Methodist fellowship sweetheart, Carolyn Keyes. They were married for a grand 68 years.

Bud and Carolyn shared a lifetime of social advocacy and teaching.  In 1941 he joined the U.S. Army, teaching and counseling new recruits and foreign-born soldiers. After completing officers training he was reassigned to the Army Medical Corp. He returned to the East Bay after the war and worked as a guidance counselor for the Richmond School district until his retirement.

He was well loved by his community and students for advocating, listening to student stories, coaching the swim team and directing plays. He loved to champion education movements. He was vocal in supporting the building of  a junior college for Richmond and adamant that it should include a nursing school and vocational programs.

Bud was outspoken in his views on breaking discrimination barriers and ridding schools of soda pop.  His creative programs for engaging students gave way to an invitation from MIT to lecture on the “Richmond Plan.”

Bud’s retirement meant more time for community and politics. In 1981 he and Carolyn moved to Point Reyes to be close to the smell of the sea and fresh air. When he wasn’t building fences, toys and book shelves in his garage, Bud was found on an affordable housing committee, disaster planning committee, singing in the church choir, baby sitting or washing dishes at his daughter’s restaurant.

Bud continued to take time to keep his hand on the pulse of the wider community and received a letter of appreciation for his “Modest Proposal” on social reform from Hilary Clinton in 1994.


Bud is survived by his daughter Annie; sister Nancy Ahlberg; grandchildren Adam Nicol, Kara Nicol-Rocque, Flyn Nicol, Sidra Khan-Engle, Cyrus Hartwell and Kay Marie Tomlin-Hines; great grandchildren Zoë Nicol, Ashton Oliver, Bryson Rocque and Owen Rocque; goddaughter Pat Oddone; and a host of nieces, nephews and extended family. Arrangements for a memorial in Point Reyes will be made late this spring.