Tri-Cities writer who lived life with ‘gusto, gratitude’ dies after bout with cancer

A beloved Tri-Cities author and psychologist who, by his own words, lived a life filled with “gusto, gratitude and a good sprinkling of chocolate chips,” has died after a hard-fought battle with cancer.

Allen Johnson died Saturday, Nov. 11, according to his blog.

He was 77.

Allen Johnson
Allen Johnson

His death comes just months after the passing of his wife, Juanita “Nita” Johnson, Pasco School District’s retired migrant program director. The two were married for more than 53 years.

The Richland writer was a warm, diplomatic and contemplative voice in the Tri-Cities community. Between 2015 and 2022, he wrote occasional newspaper columns for the Tri-City Herald, chronicling important life lessons and viewpoints to raise the human spirit.

Last year, Johnson wrote candidly about a cancer diagnosis that gave him a “new perspective” on life.

Johnson was a Renaissance man who expressed love for music, literature, theater, recreation, comedy, photography, as well as French language and culture.

He was the author of six popular fiction and non-fiction books.

In a video posted to his YouTube channel over the weekend, Johnson provides posthumous thanks to his loved ones and colleagues before bidding his farewell with a few final life lessons.

Johnson’s long and diverse career is based in an appreciation of education.

After graduating from Northwest Nazarene University, he began his career as a high school teacher in Kelso, Wash., where he taught English, speech and drama, and directed school plays. He met his wife Nita, a kindergarten teacher, in the small Washington town and the two married Christmas Eve 1968.

A few years later, the couple traveled abroad to study French at the University of Grenoble in France and teach English in Algeria.

Johnson went on to earn a master’s in communications from the University of Washington and a doctorate in counseling psychology from Washington State University. He taught various courses in speech and communications at Columbia Basin College and Washington State University Tri-Cities.

He also worked as a corporate trainer and development consultant, and was an international keynote speaker.

Johnson was a frequent volunteer and coach for several Tri-City high school and college theatrical productions, and spent a great deal of time volunteering in local high schools.