Eulogy for Denton Paul Johnson Print E-mail
Written by Janelle Henry   

Denton Paul Johnson departed this world on Tuesday, June 20, 2017.  He entered eternal rest with the Lord, surrounded by family and smothered in love.  Today we do not mourn the physical loss of this wonderful man, but we gather to celebrate his selfless spirit… kindred soul… and a life well lived. 

He is free of medical complications… and no longer prisoner to his earthly body --  And if death imitates life in any way, we can be sure that he is on to his next adventure.

Denton was a leader, an adventurer, an inspiration… As well as a husband, a son, a brother, a step-father, an uncle, a cousin, a grandpa, a friend, and a child of God. 

And though he was many things to so many people, Denton Paul Johnson still managed to be one of a kind.

Even those who only met him in brief passing knew two universal truths about him:

1)      He had a smile that could light up any room

2)      The stories of his countless adventures were sure to awe everyone in that room.

    

And the greatest story of them all… HIS STORY.

Denton’s parents, Coralee and the late Eric Johnson, welcomed him into their family on October 2, 1956 in Kingston Jamaica. He attended school there until 1972, when as a teenager, he moved to the Bronx with his family.  He later moved to the Village of Port Chester, New York, where he resided for the remainder of his life. 

In 1975, at age 16, he graduated from Bulova School of Watchmakers in Woodside, Queens, New York and was their youngest graduate ever. He was a member of the Bulova Wheelchair Basketball team from 1973 to 1991, first as a coach and then later as a member of the Track & Field and Wheelchair Basketball teams. He was the holder of many National Records in Track & Field for Discus and Javelin.

   

In 1973, he joined the Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Wheelchair Basketball team, now known as the Bulova Nets, until he retired in 2013. As a team captain he led the Suffolk Seagulls Team Handball to two National Championships in 2002 and 2003.

     

Additionally, Denton held many National Records and won numerous awards for Track & Field and Wheelchair Basketball.  He served on the 1996 Atlanta Paralympic Organizing Committee and the Athlete Advisory Committee. 

In 1988, Denton became a member of the USA Paralympic Team that competed in Seoul, Korea. There he won Gold with a World Record throw in the Shot Putt event and Silver in Discus and Club Throw.

The winning streak continued when he nabbed Silver and Bronze medals in the 1992 Paralympics Games in Barcelona, Spain.  His medal count grew with a Silver in Discus in the 1996 Paralympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia.  He also went on to compete in the 2000 Sydney, Australia Paralympic Games and became a member of the World Champion Teams of 1990, 1994 and 1998, where he won Silver and Bronze medals in the Discus, Shot Putt, and Javelin.

In 1990, Denton was a guest on "Night of a Hundred Stars " at Radio City Music Hall.  He held his own on the NBC telecast against a sea of celebrities including Muhammad Ali, Bon Jovi, Jerry Rice, and Jackie Joyner-Kersey.

Denton’s travels led him all over the world.  His charisma and his talents brought him to the center of many A-List circles, ranging from famous comics & musicians to movie stars and presidents.  The likes of Brooke Shields, Kid the Rapper, and even Bill, Hilary & Chelsea Clinton. 

From the Redwood Forest to the White House, from New Zealand and back to New York, Denton collected friends from every corner of the world.  Every person he met finally learned what everyone in this room has always known-- Denton Paul Johnson was one of a kind.

Above all accolades and allies, Denton Johnson was family.  Many of you know him from many different facets of life, but to me he was always just "Uncle D."  We shared many things: relatives, DNA… But the most important was our love of travel. I remember when I was little, he would spend hours recounting the places he had visited and the sites he had seen. One hour with uncle Denton was like having V.I.P. access to the Seven Wonders of the world!  Every time I left a visit with Uncle D, my “little bucket list" evolved into an ever-growing Rolodex.

  

The last time I saw uncle Denton was three weeks ago at Greenwich Hospital. He was still and quiet – the exact opposite of the man I knew growing up.  However, it was clearly the aftermath of a strong man with a strong will, refusing to give in to his illness until he had everything in order.  During the visit, he gestured to the corner of his room where there was a marker and a stack of wrinkled papers. I didn't understand, but I brought the stash to him.  With all the strength he could muster, he wrote three things: Redwood Forest. Golden Gate Bridge. Winding Road in San Fran.

I couldn't stop smiling. Even in his fragile state, he was adamant that he share his recommendations for my future travel "to-do" list.  After I read it, I looked at him and he was beaming from ear to ear – that iconic smile that we've all come to know and love.

That was the last memory that I'll have uncle Denton… And it was perfect.  And in many ways, very symbolic of his life.

 


That last moment reconfirmed the two universal truths we know about Denton:

1) He had a smile that could light up any room 

2) His countless adventures could awe anyone in that room. 

So now, as we use this time to reflect on what we will most fondly remember about Denton, I challenge you to not just mourn the loss of his physical presence, but celebrate a life well lived… And a spirit that lives on. And if we do that just right, then Denton will live on through us.

Smile more often… Or be the reason that someone smiles big enough to light up a room.


Stop talking about the things you would like to do "one day" and do it now.  

Join the basketball team… Take that trip… And if you ever actually make it to the Redwood Forest, take it all in-- because Denton would have wanted you to.

 

Uncle D, you are gone, but not forgotten.  - Rest in peace. 

Your radiant smile and gentle kindness will be etched in our hearts forever.

Your Loving Niece - Janelle Henry 

The family has asked in lieu of flowers, please give to the Wheelchair Sports Federation in Denton's name.  Wheelchair Sports Federation will miss his friendship, dedication, huge heart and even bigger laugh. 

Last Updated on Thursday, 13 July 2017 23:52