Dick Johnson, longtime Control Engineering, Plant Engineering senior editor, dies

Senior editor for Control Engineering, Plant Engineering, Dick Johnson, died in September 2023.

By Mark T. Hoske October 3, 2023
Courtesy: Erica Johnson

Dick Johnson, former senior editor of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering, died at age 80 in September 2023. Courtesy: Erica Johnson

Richard E. (Dick) Johnson, longtime former senior editor for Plant Engineering and then Control Engineering, died Sept. 28, 2023, at age of 80. Johnson, with a degree in mechanical engineering from University of Illinois-Urbana, covered a variety of topics at both publications, including safety and process instrumentation. He often emphasized the practical needs of readers when seeking article topics or working on an assigned topic. About Control Engineering applications, he noted that software advances were fun to report, but noted the critical need for smart and efficient hardware designs within automation designs.

“You can’t build the stuff with software,” he’d say.

Referring to past Plant Engineering articles, he recalled practical tutorials he’d done about design and maintenance of flagpoles and about maintaining industrial roofs among reader favorites.

Links to several Dick Johnson articles

Johnson also served as a Control Engineering consulting editor for several years after retirement from full-time duties. Eventually, he declined to write or edit, saying that without a day-to-day connection to controls, automation and instrumentation, he did not want to pass along less-than-optimal information.

A sampling of many years of coverage still can be found on the Control Engineering website, including the following.





Also see image of custody transfer flowmeter article.

Dick Johnson emphasized practical information in his coverage, such as this March 1999 Control Engineering article on custody transfer flowmeters, “How to Deliver Liquids and Gases Accurately.”

Dick Johnson emphasized practical information in his coverage, such as this March 1999 Control Engineering article on custody transfer flowmeters, “How to Deliver Liquids and Gases Accurately.” Courtesy: Control Engineering

Dick Johnson sayings, observations

Advice and humor extended to office interactions. When someone would taste something and exclaim that the temperature was too hot, he’d offer: “Grandma always said, ‘You can’t cook it with ice cubes.’” Another saying he’d share from Grandma: “Eat for the hunger that comes.”

When lunching out with co-workers, usually once a week, Thai food was a frequent favorite, and Johnson liked it spicy, always selecting multi-pepper selections on the menu. He’d say that if it didn’t make sweat run down his forehead, it wasn’t hot enough.

Weather permitting, after a cafeteria lunch, he’d often walk and talk with co-workers.

Co-worker recollections of Dick Johnson

Jeanine Katzel, retired senior editor who worked with Johnson at both publications, said, “Dick was a favorite co-worker for many years. He brought levity to the workplace and was just plain fun to be around, always helpful and supportive. He embraced life fully, one of his favorite catchphrases was ‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead!’ He was a man of principle. I admired him and what he did with his life. More than that, I liked him! He will be missed.”

Frank Bartos, PE, retired Control Engineering executive editor, said, “The technology editorial community must surely be saddened by the passing of Dick Johnson – along with his many friends and associates. I had the good fortune to have DJ (as I often called him) as a colleague at Control Engineering over many years, which turned into a loyal friendship that lasted well into retirement.

“Dick came from the ranks of traditional engineers and ably applied that background to his practical articles about process engineering. Although we came from different engineering fields, we shared some hands-on experiences from industry. We strove to integrate that with new developments on which we reported and translate all that into the needs of our readers.

“I remember Dick as an outgoing person with a warm sense of humor. DJ and I continued to communicate after retirement and enjoyed sporadic lunch meetings. There was never a lack of topics to discuss, but one recurring theme was how amazingly far technology had developed from our days, yet tempered by concern about its course into the future.

“DJ sometimes closed his articles with a line from his favorite Looney Tunes, ‘That’s all folks.’ I can do no better,” Bartos added.

Johnson’s engineering skills and interests extended through many areas, including train watching and regular trips to watch movements of current and antique rolling stock and locomotives. Illinois Railway Museum was among favorite destinations.

He often reflected about possible future impacts of fast-changing technology developments and applications, saying, “I wish I could be around a hundred years from now to see how all this turns out.”

We do, too, Dick. We do, too.

He is survived by daughter Erica Johnson (Jeff Nerud), grandson Jax Nerud, brother of Daniel (Judy) Johnson and David Johnson, uncle of Jennifer (Adam Reeger) Johnson Reeger. His daughter Erica Johnson added that her Dad enjoyed spending time with grandson, train watching and coffee at Gosia’s Coffee Shop.

Share a story

Have a Dick Johnson story to share? More information is available, and stories can be shared at this link. https://www.legacy.com/us/obituaries/name/richard-johnson-obituary?id=53232131

If the story is related to his time as an editor, share a story by emailing mhoske@cfemedia.com, and I’ll add a sampling of what I receive below.

Mark T. Hoske is content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology, mhoske@cfemedia.com.

Author Bio: Mark Hoske has been Control Engineering editor/content manager since 1994 and in a leadership role since 1999, covering all major areas: control systems, networking and information systems, control equipment and energy, and system integration, everything that comprises or facilitates the control loop. He has been writing about technology since 1987, writing professionally since 1982, and has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism degree from UW-Madison.