Harold Johnson, Moraine’s flying mayor, dies in Florida

“In his own way and his own style and in his own time, he was a good leader,” said West Carrollton City Councilman Harold Robinson. “I’ve always had the greatest respect for him.”

Mr. Johnson served with Robinson on the Wright Seaplane Base Inc. board.

“He was a good man, and he will be missed,” Robinson said. “I, in particular, will miss his stories about aviation in Montgomery County.”

There were no details available about Mr. Johnson’s death. According to representatives with the Wright Seaplane Base group, funeral arrangements are pending and Mr. Johnson’s widow and daughters are flying back to Moraine today.

Born in Springfield, Ohio, on March 23, 1925, Mr. Johnson served as mayor of Moraine from 1976 to 1993, and more recently, on the city’s Community Improvement Corp.

“The city of Moraine is deeply saddened by the death of former Mayor Harold Johnson,” Moraine officials said in a press release Thursday. “The Johnson family is in our thoughts and prayers.”

West Carrollton Mayor Jeffery Sanner described Mr. Johnson as “truly a colorful character.” His passing, Sanner said, “is a great loss” to all who loved and ever worked with him.

Mr. Johnson married his high school sweetheart, Thelma, after returning in 1945 from service in the Navy. In 1955, Mr. Johnson started the South Dayton Airport, which is now the Moraine Air Park. He worked there as manager for more than 40 years.

Mr. Johnson also was one of the original organizers of the Dayton Air Show and founding members of the Aviation Trail.

In 1957, Mr. Johnson purchased his 1934 Waco UMF-3, which he flew to earn the unofficial title of the flying mayor of Moraine.

He received a hero’s award in 1960 for saving the life of a man who was drowning in the icy Great Miami River.

“He was such a very wonderful friend,” said Jeffrey Cansler, a retired Moraine streets and parks employee and family friend of Johnson’s for more than 40 years. “He was very inspirational to me.”

Contact this reporter at (937) 225-9338 or kmcallister @DaytonDailyNews.com.

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