SALEM — Dr. William Edward Johnson, 89, former chief of orthopedics at Salem Hospital, now part of the North Shore Medical Center, died Monday, Aug. 30, 2010 in his home after a brief illness. A graduate of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester and Harvard Medical School in Boston, Dr. Johnson practiced orthopedic surgery north of Boston from 1952 to the 1989.
Born on May 14, 1921, in Hartford, Conn., Dr. Johnson was the son of the late John and Anna Murphy Johnson of Hartford and the husband of Claire Devlin Johnson of Salem, who survives him. Graduating from Hartford Public High School in 1938, Dr. Johnson was one of the first recipients of a college scholarship from the Jacob L. and Lewis Fox Foundation of Hartford. After graduating from Holy Cross in 1942, Dr. Johnson was admitted to Harvard Medical School in a program to treat wounded veterans in World War II. In 1945, as the war was ending, Dr. Johnson graduated from Harvard Medical School and was allowed to postpone his enlistment in the United States Navy to complete a nine-month internship at Hartford Hospital, where he had been born. His internship rotated among several specialties. He received a World War II Victor medal.
Serving on active duty in the Navy from 1946 to 1949, he put this broad medical training into practice as an assistant surgeon at Pearl Harbor and on Midway Island in the Pacific. While a young doctor on Midway, he performed emergency surgery by lantern light on a submarine sailor whose appendix had burst.
Commissioned at the rank of lieutenant (junior grade), Dr. Johnson received his honorable discharge in June 1945 in order to begin a three-year fellowship in orthopedic surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. He continued to serve as a member of the Naval Reserve. He had married the former Claire Devlin of Lynn on May 12, 1945. In 1952, he and their family returned to New England, where he began a sole practice of orthopedics that grew into Salem Orthopedic Surgeons. He was a fellow of the Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.
An avid sailor and member of the Corinthian and Eastern Yacht Clubs of Marblehead, Dr. Johnson cruised the New England coast aboard the "Elsinore." Bill and Claire, as they were known to friends, were frequent travelers from Italy to Afghanistan and China. In 1987, Dr. Johnson traveled to Pakistan with his daughter Martha, who became a doctor of medicine, on a medical mission to treat civilians wounded in the conflict between Afghanistan and Russia. A lifelong amateur photographer, Dr. Johnson loved his Leica camera and documented his travels and family for more than 50 years. He was a former director of the Eastern Savings Bank in Salem and the Salem YMCA. A resident of Marblehead Neck from 1974 to 2004, he was past president of the Marblehead Neck Improvement Association.
He is survived by his wife, six children, David W. Johnson of Stratham, N.H., Mark D. Johnson of Tahoe City, Calif., Paul W. Johnson of Swampscott, Robert E. Johnson of Swampscott, Anne M. Johnson of Cambridge, and Dr. Martha Claire Johnson of Vashon Island, Wash.; eight grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. He was preceded in death his sister, Ruth M. Johnson.
ARRANGEMENTS: Funeral arrangements are by the Murphy Funeral Home at the corner of Federal and North Streets, Salem. Visiting hours are Friday 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. at the funeral home. A funeral Mass will be celebrated on Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Our Lady Star of the Sea Church, 81 Atlantic Ave. in Marblehead, with burial in Waterside Cemetery, Marblehead, to follow. In lieu of flowers, Dr. Johnson's family requests that contributions in his name be made to the Salem YMCA, 1 Sewall St., Salem, MA 01970. For online guestbook or additional information please call 978-744-0497 or visit www.MurphyFuneralHome.com.