by Amanda Hookey

    Paul J. Johnson – A Tribute to a Passionate Community Leader

    Paul J. Johnson was a man of many facets – Altruist, Leader, Philanthropist, and Doctor of Laws are a few titles he garnered through his life’s work. A contemplative man by nature he took family, business, and community to the heart of his existence. His pursuits connected communities through public trails and in preservation of Newfoundland culture.

    Johnson’s Insurance

    1949 was a big year as Canada joined confederation, simultaneously Paul J. Johnson embarked upon his career with his family-owned business Johnson’s Insurance. By 1953, Johnson moved into management and thus transforming himself into CEO and Johnson’s Insurance into a nation-wide empire, stretching from the east to west coasts of Canada. During the growth of Johnson’s Insurance into a national organization, he became involved in all aspects of the business including offshoot companies.


    Johnson’s Philanthropic side was illuminated upon founding the Johnson Family Foundation. He implemented the fund in order to grant organizations monetary rewards in order to preserve Newfoundland culture and foster a sense of community amongst citizens.

    The ever-involved Johnson sat on many community boards including the Salvation Army, St. John’s Housing Authority, St. John’s Heritage Foundation, the Gilbert Memorial Committee, and the Rotary Club. Johnson’s selflessness awarded him an honorary degree and the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador.


    In a mentorship capacity, leadership was delivered contemplatively and reflectively. Johnson’s patience allowed people to learn their lessons in their own time. As a mentor he promoted success by implementing an hour of quiet time in the mornings so employees could focus and plan their days. Announcing his gratitude for each employee daily, reiterating how important their role and efforts were to him and for their success in business.

    In the community

    Johnson carried out green space revitalizations in the community as privately and humbly as possible. Often Paul used his own resources to steward environment preservation in the community. He once dedicated his resources, efforts, and time to cleaning up a dump of broke down cars on Signal Hill. He did not fancy the limelight; ducking from cameras to avoid fame. He donated from the heart without a need for fan-fare.

    In community planning he was a visionary, he planned projects with cognitive maps allowing him to organize his plans and tease out flaws. The landscapes we see locally are visions born from his industriously creative mind. Through city planning, he gained notoriety, winning him awards in the field of planning and Architecture.

    Looking around St. John’s and surrounding areas you can see Johnson’s life of work, The Grand Concourse, the Cruise Ship Authority of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Lookout, the Johnson Geo Centre, the Railway Coastal Museum, elements of Bowring Park and the Trails of Caribou Memorial in Quidi Vidi were all presents for our lifetime and beyond.

    Paul J. Johnson was a man who was responsible and accountable to his commitments. Enduring a promise to make Newfoundland better and investing his time and energy into the future of our beautiful province. He connected community through public and personal spaces, books and by funding historical preservation, by empowering families in need and reinforcing a sense of identity in Newfoundlanders. He tackled environmental responsibility and was true to his word.

    Involvement and expertise in a wide range of pursuits has coined him a renaissance man. He absolutely excelled at everything he put his attention to. With a personal mantra of, “Do the right thing, the right way, right now,” we can see that he lived by his word. His legacy lives and breathes kindness.

    Saying good-bye

    Paul J. Johnson we honour and cherish what you have done for the landscape of our rocky home and recognize your life stretching out in the hearts of our province and it is without further ado, that we bid you adieu.

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