FLY CREEK — Edwin Arthur Johnson, a local American folk artist, former real estate agent and former textile executive, died late Monday afternoon, May 18, 2015, at the New York State Veterans Home at Oxford. He was 81.
Born May 2, 1934, in Brooklyn, he was the son of Edwin Herbert Johnson and Lillian Swanson Johnson. He was baptized at Trinity Swedish Lutheran Church in the Bronx.
His childhood was spent in Palmer, Mass., Bergenfield, N.J., and Teaneck, N.J., graduating from Teaneck High School in 1953. Ed was graduated from the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Sciences with a B.S. in Textile Engineering in 1957.
On April 20, 1963, Ed married Adele Louise Merkle in St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Teaneck, N.J.
From 1957 to 1959, Ed served in the United States Army in the 3rd Infantry Division Artillery as Headquarters Battery Clerk in Kitzingen, Germany. From 1959 to 1962, he was an assistant to the Technical & Development Director at Geigy Dyestuff & Chemical Corporation in Tarrytown. He spent 1962 to 1963, with Bernhard Ulmann Co., then 1963 to 1968, as a senior engineer with Wool Bureau Inc., a branch of the International Wool Secretariat, in New York City. From 1968 to 1971, he was co-owner, vice president and treasurer of Color Dynamics Dye Works Inc., Montgomery, Pa. He went to Bentex Mills Inc., East Rutherford, N.J., in 1971, as director of Research and Development and Quality Control and departmental superintendent. The textile field brought Ed and his family to Cooperstown, when in 1974, he accepted a job as plant manager for Tricot Fabricating Corp. in Dolgeville.
Ed started his second career as a real estate broker in 1975, when he opened a branch office of Bates Real Estate in Cooperstown. He went on to become a co-owner of Country Properties Real Estate and Frog Hollow Real Estate, and to work with Ashley-Connor Realty, retiring in 2004. During this time, Ed enjoyed meeting the many people — both local and newcomers to the area — who he was able to help. Also, because of the nature of the work, he spent much time driving around our beautiful countryside, becoming familiar with the terrain and the old architecture.
Being the realtor for folk artist Janet Munro when she moved to town, Ed found his third career as a folk artist. In his years in New Jersey, he and Adele had done artwork which they sold at craft fairs: sand castings, mobiles and lamb’s fur products. When Ed saw Janet’s folk art landscapes he commented, “I didn’t know you were allowed to paint if you couldn’t draw.” Janet became his mentor and sometime around 1985, he began producing a steady stream of beautiful folk art paintings. By 2014, he had completed 533 paintings.
His work was represented by the Frank J. Miele Gallery in New York City; Gallery Bonheur in St. Louis, Mo.; Gallery Americana in Houston, Texas; the Atlanta Folk Art Gallery in Duluth, Ga.; Gallery 53 in Cooperstown; and Toad Hall in Cooperstown and New York City. He has been in more than 20 solo and group shows in New York City, Cooperstown, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Poland and Switzerland. Among these were the Folk Fest in Atlanta, Ga.; The Outsider Art Fair in New York City; the Jay Johnston Gallery in New York City; The Intuit Show in Chicago, Ill.; and The American Center, United States Embassy, Warsaw, Poland.
In 1998, Ed was invited to participate in the annual International Folk Art Competition in Morges, Switzerland, where he won second place in the Prix de Publique (Prize of the Public) and was invited to appear in a group show at the Galerie Pro Arte Kasper in Morges. His work is in the museum collections of the New York State Historical Association and the United States Embassy in Warsaw, Poland.
Ed loved his family, his old and new friends, painting, his old house in Fly Creek, his clock collection, his cut glass collection, the “hills and dales” of Otsego County, Provincetown, color, old diners, playing chess, orange day lilies, and anything else that struck his fancy. In later years, he especially loved to greet friends and strangers on Main Street in Cooperstown, and in the town’s New York Pizzeria.
Ed is survived by his wife, Adele Merkle Johnson; his children and their spouses, Kristina Marie Levine and Leigh Levine, Christopher E.S. Johnson and Jennifer Griffin, and Philip R.S. Johnson and Elise Blackburn; his grandchildren, Nathan Levine, Charlie Levine, Madeline Johnson, Jake Johnson, Eloise Johnson and Finn Johnson; his sister and her husband, Dorothy and William Laggett; his sister-in-law, Phyllis Carstens; and his paintings.
There will be a memorial gathering from 1 to 3 p.m., Saturday, July 11, 2015, at the Connell, Dow & Deysenroth Funeral Home, 82 Chestnut St., Cooperstown.
Memorial donations may be made to Children International: www.children.org, 800-888-3089.
Arrangements are under the care and guidance of the Connell, Dow & Deysenroth Funeral Home in Cooperstown.
Published on  May 28, 2015