Williams Douglas “Billy” Johnson, 86, of Longboat Key, died July 2.
Born Feb. 1, 1923, in Albany, Ga., Mr. Johnson resided in the Sarasota area for more than 85 years and was a Longboat Key resident for 40 years.
He graduated from Sarasota High School in 1942 and served four years in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He was deployed to Pearl Harbor and the Philippines twice. Mr. Johnson retired from Florida Power and Light after 35 years, working there from 1949 to 1985.
But Mr. Johnson’s lifelong passion was sailing. He was one of the original founders of the Sarasota Sailing Squadron and was named an honorary lifetime member of the organization, as well as a lifetime member of the Bradenton Yacht Club. He was also a member of the invitation-only Cruising Club of America.
In a 2007 interview with The Longboat Observer, Mr. Johnson said the idea for the Sailing Squadron was born out of a weekend sailing trip with longtime friend Walter Fox, one of many trips the two took together.
He was introduced to sailing at a young age by his brother, Clinton Johnson, now deceased, founder of Johnson Sails.
During Mr. Johnson’s sailing career, he won multiple national championships and for the last 20 years enjoyed long-distance sailing with his first mate and wife of 62 years, Patricia.
Mr. Johnson told The Observer he preferred smaller boats to bigger boats, because you can feel the wind better when sailing.
“I feel the wind, the waves, and I get in tune with the wind, which is always erratic,” Mr. Johnson told The Observer. “I don’t have to look at anything to know what the wind is doing. After all these years, I could be blindfolded and still race. I’ve always been able to do that.”
Mr. Johnson is survived by his wife, Pat; daughters, Linda Cournoyer, of Sarasota, and Susan Dockery, of Longboat Key; four grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at 6 p.m. Sunday, July 19, at the Sarasota Sailing Squadron, 1717 Ken Thompson Parkway. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Billy Johnson Memorial Scholarship Fund, c/o Sarasota Youth Sailing Program, P.O. Box 2706, Sarasota, Fla., 34230-2706.