Darrell James Johnson, 70, lifetime Kittitas Valley resident, passed away on Saturday, October 22, 2022 at his home, surrounded by his family. Friends are invited to a drop-in reception on Friday, November 4, 2022 from 12:00 - 3:00 p.m. at the McIntosh Ranch outside of Ellensburg, bring your favorite Darrellism or story to write down and share with the family. The Rosary will be prayed at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, November 3, 2022 at St. Andrew’s Catholic Church and Darrell will be laid to rest in a private family ceremony at Holy Cross Cemetery.
Darrell was born on September 28, 1952 in Ellensburg to Roland & Jean (McGahey) Johnson. He grew up in Kittitas and attended the Denmark School, Kittitas Middle School and Kittitas High School. Whether it was catching and selling fish or collecting pop bottles to sell, Darrell had an entrepreneurial spirit from a very young age. So it came as no shock to those that knew him best that, in the middle of the 10th grade, he followed his gut instinct that he liked working more than books, and left school to get to work. Looking back and reading his report cards, it was better off for everyone that he moved on in life and set out to put his social skills to work. Darrell instilled the same work ethic in his children at an early age and he was proud of both of them for their accomplishments in life.
The folklore of Darrell’s youth includes stories that he drove a hay truck up the Vantage Hill at the age of 14, managed a local pool hall that turned into a long time hobby of shooting pool with some of his best friends and took an adventure with a buddy, riding hopping a train, eventually winding up in Montana. Sometime later in life, Darrell also coached little league teams and while he may have been a little rough in his style (by today’s standards, scumsuckers), many of his former players have shared how much his coaching had a positive effect in other areas of their lives.
In 1970, Darrell met Susan Thayer at a party and the two hit it off. They were meant to meet at Kathie Barnhart’s party while her parents were out of town as Mom rarely attended these but they caught each other’s eye and thankfully Mom asked for some ice for her beer to catch his attention. They dated for a couple years and married on September 1, 1972 - Rodeo and Fair weekend - but it was a necessity to do it then since it was a three-day weekend. They eventually made their home on Number 81 Road in 1976 and have lived there since that time. Susan and Darrell built a beautiful home and Mom took pride in her yard and Dad took pride in telling everyone about it and all of her hard work and how she could never sit still.
Darrell first started working as a hay-buck before going to work for his uncle at Johnson Brothers Hay Company. Darrell, along with his brother Dave, eventually purchased the company in 1981. Darrell grew the operation to not only include hay, but also raising replacement heifers for the dairies he supplied at the “Holstein Hilton”. Darrell’s children remember (as do their friends who would come for sleepovers) that every day started with getting up early and feeding the cows….even on Christmas morning! Of course, no one will forget the Johnson Brothers metallic plum crazy purple, black, white, gold pinstriped, chromed-out, cabover trucks. In fact, a picture of those trucks just got put in the PACCAR Hall of Fame in Texas. Tara and Chad have fond memories of waking up early and going for trips with their dad in the hay trucks and stopping at the pass and getting a fresh cold drink out of the waterfall.
After operating Johnson Brothers for almost 20 years, Darrell wound down that business and he then founded D&C Distributors, another family owned business that he owned and operated for over 20 years with his wife, Susan, and son, Chad, supplying plastic products to the hay exporters around the world. As his health started to decline, Darrell slowed down and sold D&C in May of 2022.
Whether it was spending hours on the tractor, brush-hogging the farm to washing his truck (sometimes 8-10 times a week), Darrell was meticulous about everything that he did. Always a social person, Darrell enjoyed his morning routine of driving around the valley to check things out on a route that usually didn’t change, but always included driving past daughter Tara Kay’s office on Dolarway Road, honking every time he drove by. He also enjoyed stopping at 1883 Coffee for his green smoothie and at his different watering holes to have a ”toot”, playing pull-tabs, and enjoying being around people he considered friends, which covered an area from the Sea Galley, to the Time-out, Nodding Donkey, and in between.
Throughout his entire life, family, friends and his grandsons were the most important thing to Darrell. He treasured the time he had on the farm working with his grandsons, having them pick up twine or other small jobs that he thought needed done – always accompanied by the added motivation of the risk of a “boot up the butt” if they didn’t do it the “right way”. He loved family vacations when the kids were young, loading up the Blazer and making a loop around the west coast, to holidays in Hawaii, or summer trips boating on a lake. Even as his health declined and he couldn’t get out like he used to, he would sit on the front porch of the house, watching the traffic on Number 81 Road, and waving at everyone that drove by. Of course, any snapshot of Darrell’s life would be incomplete without mentioning his trademark chest hair (which he was very proud of) and the direct correlation between the number of buttons on his shirt that would open up in proportion to the number of drinks that he had consumed.
Darrell is survived by his wife, Susan; son Chad (Kelly) Johnson and daughter Tara Kay (Jason) Brown, all of Kittitas; grandsons Austyn, Ridge, Jared and Ryker; sisters Wendy (Rick) Wakefield of Colville and Kelly (Brents) Edwards of Edmonds; brother Jeep Johnson of Thorp and step-mother Connie Valentine of Wenatchee, as well as many extended family members and dear friends. He was preceded in death by his parents, his brother Dave Johnson, Sr., and many beloved cattle dogs that he had over the years. Darrell loved Ma and Pa Thayer deeply, he was blessed to have them in his life and the family feels comfort knowing they are reunited.
Memorial contributions in Darrell’s honor are suggested to the Gretchen Weller Foundation, PO Box 1762 in Ellensburg or online at www.gretchenwellerfoundation.com Please note that your donation is in honor of Darrell, as those donations will be earmarked specifically for helping children with cancer in Kittitas County.
The family also wishes to express their sincere appreciation to KVH Hospice and to Darrell’s caregiver (whom he called his “angel”) Rebekah Carney.
Johnston & Williams Funeral Home and Crematory of Ellensburg has been entrusted with caring for Mr. Johnson and his family. Online condolences may be left at www.johnston-williams.com