Paul Johnson was an instructional supervisor in the Department of Veterinary and Comparative Anatomy, Pharmacology and Physiology at Washington State University, where he spent 36 years overseeing the Worthman Anatomy Teaching Museum while also creating display specimens. He passed away peacefully at his home on November 14, 2020.
Browse a gallery of PJ and his time at WSU, and read the memories from a few of the many veterinary medicine students he helped over the years.
Photos courtesy WSU College of Veterinary Medicine
Memories of PJ
Veterinary students share their memories of Johnson over the years…
Kyle Frandle (’80 DVM)
We had a great summer working with PJ as his first anatomy lab crew. We prepared all kinds of preps for anatomical models which are still present in the museum. It was an amazing experience and it endeared us as all to PJ. We became lifelong friends!
Also, PJ had a dog named Black Dog and he procured a very official College of Veterinary Medicine photo ID badge from sources unknown. Paul would take him everywhere with that badge on his collar! No one would question his authority, and the big lab was with him every day.
Robin Peterson (’81 DVM)
PJ had an inspiring ‘work hard, play hard’ way about him. He was the best Ride N Tier around. Always attentive to the horses’ well-being along with aiming for the win! He was incredibly supportive of the rest of us ‘back in the pack’ (sometimes waaaaaay back, LOL) He is missed.
Kathleen Blackshear (’81 DVM)
Freshman year, anatomy test. All afternoon. Then Louise, Dan, and I were drinking beer and shooting pool at The Down Under … and Dan remembered we had a co-Ed intramural softball game that night! We showed up in the nick of time and pretty, um, loose. There on the sidelines with a cooler of beer (way against campus rules!) were Jerry Newberry and Paul Johnson, our sorta coaches! They’d had a very long day in the anatomy lab with us. We were a riot, (Louise tackled a kid running to 2nd base) but we won, and I think Paul and Jerry had a little ‘talking to’ from admin ….
Susan Thorson (’81 DVM)
Paul was a kind professional. He took the time, effort, and compassion to help me with my beloved Lady-Dog.
Christiana Stone Cruver (’81 DVM)
I just remember Paul being such a dedicated runner … before it was really a ‘thing.’
He was so very helpful, too, and always a familiar presence out in the anatomy lab.
Conrad Kornmann (’03 DVM)
I believe it was the summer of my junior year when I worked for PJ making anatomy specimens. PJ was a rare individual—intense but also patient, kind, and had a great sense of humor.
I do remember that he gave all of us working for him a deal on ‘physical fitness Wednesdays’: If you wanted to exercise, you could stay clocked in for lunch. If you declined, you had to clock out. I think only two of us took him up on it with any regularity, which was understandable given the usual Pullman summer temperatures. We ran stairs in the stadium. A perfect short but intense workout. It was also good in that I would not have wanted to attempt a linear run with PJ. It would have been either humiliating or exceedingly painful. He was a great runner and if I recall he usually won his category in competitive events if you asked around; he never said anything about it.
Kornmann says Johnson also took part in the Diagnostic Challenge (DC) program where he volunteered to pose as a pet owner. The program helps students learn to diagnose medical problems and interact with the public.
In truth, Paul was not one of our best DC clients. Despite his tough Marine exterior and our coaching, he was too soft hearted to provide feedback that sounded even a little bit critical. The last time he did DC’s in 2019, the case had a poor prognosis, and we expected the students would have one of their first opportunities to discuss euthanasia with a client. But Paul wasn’t up for that. He came in on the last day and told the students he’d won the lottery overnight and was now able to do whatever it might take to keep his DC dog alive. I’m not sure I’ve known a kinder man. Paul will be missed. By many.
Heidi Talbott (‘15 DVM)
Paul was a wonderful person. We became good friends because we both liked to ride horses. One of my favorite memories is of us on horseback on Moscow Mountain.
On the surface, Paul may have seemed like a gruff Marine, but if you spent even a few minutes with him you would soon realize he had a generous heart. His values included being true to your word, punctuality, tidiness, honesty, generosity, and respect for the earth. He was salt-of-the earth goodness. Specific examples I witnessed many times included: picking up trash from the side of the road while on his horse rides or runs, stopping to help a neighbor who needed it, giving someone a place to stay when they needed it, and being a good listener. He loved his career at the vet hospital and would regularly comment how lucky he was to have known so many great ‘young people’ he could call friends.