GHS Banner

Jim Johnson

CO poisoning kills husband, wife
Authorities suspect furnace malfunction
Gaylord Herald Times
January 23, 1997

by Dennis Powell Staff Writer

OTSEGO LAKE TWP. -- A Gaylord couple who involved themselves in the community in a quiet, helping way lost their lives in a tragic accident on the weekend.
     Jim and By Roxann Johnson, owners of Jim's Alpine Automotive in Gaylord, were found dead in their home near Waters at about 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 18, the apparent victims of carbon monoxide poisoning.
     The couple was popular with members of the community. Friends, including Jim's brother, Tom, often stopped by the parts store just to talk. In fact. it was one of those informal visits to the parts store that led to the discovery of the couple's death.
     John Jerkins, Jim's brother-in-law, said Tom and Jim's son-in-law Frank Stuckman of Gaylord stopped by the store Saturday and Jim wasn't there.
     "Jim's never late," Jenkins said.
     Thinking maybe Jim was stuck in a snowbank, the men drove to the house and found the couple.
Abel Cruz, a trooper with the Gaylord post of the Michigan State Police, said it is probable the cause of death was carbon monoxide poisoning from a malfunctioning furnace. The propane furnace was the only likely source of carbon monoxide in the house.
     CRUZ SAID there was no carbon monoxide detector in the house. He said a specific cause is still under investigation. On Wednesday afternoon he indicated he had additional heating and cooling experts going back out to the house for further review of the house, and in particular, the furnace.
     The house was brand new, the garage still unfinished.
     Cruz said the tragedy occurred some time between midnight last Friday and 9:30 a.m. Saturday when their bodies were discovered. According to police, Jim Johnson returned home late after watching his nephew Luke Johnson play basketball with the Gaylord Blue Devils in Rudyard.
     Bob Dobrzelewski, Otsego County Building Dept. administrator, said Jim had pulled his own mechanical permit. That means Jim could have installed his own furnace, but Dobrzelewski did not confirm he did.
     The house on top of the basement was a manufactured house, so it was certified for occupancy by the manufacturer, Dobrzelewski said.
     But a certificate of occupancy had not been issued by the building department, he said. In order for a certificate of occupancy to be issued all systems, including the furnace installation, must pass inspection.

     Jim, 50, and a "natural athlete," and Roxann, 44, described as "vivacious and fun-loving," were well loved by the people who knew them. Jim had lived in Gaylord since 1961, graduating from Gaylord High School in 1965.

     Roxann moved to Gaylord with Jim in 1970 after Jim completed his service in the Navy.
     Jenkins said the couple met while Jim was in the Navy, stationed in Virginia Beach. Jim had been a football star while attending Gaylord High School.
     "He was a starting sophomore quarterback, and he made all-state one year," Jerkins said.
     When Jim joined the Navy after high school, he took his athletic ability with him.
     "He played on sports teams in the Navy and won an award as the best all-around athlete," Jenkins said.
     Jim was involved in golf, basketball, football and bowling among other sports.
     "He was a natural athlete," Jenkins said.

     ROXANN WAS attracted to the friendly, athletic young man and they fell in love while be was still serving his tour of duty in the Navy. They married, and when Jim left the Navy they moved to Gaylord.
     Roxann went to work for the late Harry Boughner, who was the Otsego County Veterans Affairs counselor at the time. She and Jim became best friends with Harry and his wife, Lucille, a friendship that continued to present time.
     "They were like our own kids," Boughner said through tears. "They were to our place all the time. She called us mom and dad."
     Boughner said Jim and Roxann were caring people who did a lot of good in the community, but did it in such a way that most people didn't know about it.
     "They just did it," she said. "They didn't shout it from the mountaintop."
     After working for Boughner, Roxann went to work at the VA Clinic in Gaylord. Jane Dunaway, clinic coordinator, said Roxann, who was a close personal friend of hers, was popular with the veterans.
     "Of course the veterans loved her," Dunaway said. "She was one happy, bubbly person. She made sure people had fun when she was around."
     While Roxann was helping the veterans, Jim was working for Wilber's Automotive in Gaylord. After 11 years at Wilber's he decided to establish his own business and opened a store on South Otsego Avenue. Subsequently, he built a new store at the shop's present location on South Wisconsin Avenue.
     Eventually, their careers merged, with both working at the parts store.
     The couple will be missed. Chris Robere, Otsego County United Way director, said Jim and Roxann were involved every year in the Toys for Tots drive and collected boxes of toys to be distributed at Christmas.
     "They did a really good job," Robere said.
     Sally Jenkins, an employee at the store, said the couple helped the community and people in many ways, but didn't seek attention for their good works.
     "Anybody that ever needed anything, they were right there," Jerkins said. "They were great people."
     Funeral services for the couple were held at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 22 from First United Methodist Church. For complete obituary information, see page C-8.