Have you ever pondered why anyone would ever run a marathon? It sounds so painful. A great Czech runner, winner of four Olympic gold medals once said this: "If you want to win something, run 100 meters. If you want to experience something, run a marathon." Ross Johnson, the Rancho Cordovan of the Year, is a marathon runner.
Yes, Ross does strap on running shoes and pounds out those grueling 26 miles that enters him into that elite club of marathon runners. That alone sets him apart from us mere mortals.
But more important to this group, Ross Johnson, a man who plainly wants to experience his community, is a marathoner in other ways.
To say Ross is an outstanding citizen whose service to the community over many decades earns him the prestigious title of "Rancho Cordovan of the Year" really does not tell the full story.
Ross is the consummate hands on volunteer who finds new ways to serve his community with each passing year. His service is vast and diverse and is an excellent example that a life well-lived is ever-changing and full of giving to others.
Ross' story is replete with volunteer activities, but it plays against a background of outstanding military service. Ross is a retired colonel, California Army National Guard, with honorary promotion to Brigadier General. His career included jobs like Chief of Staff, Medical and Engineer Units Commander and more. He is also a decorated Vietnam Veteran who won numerous awards including the Legion of Merit and Bronze Star.
When he was done with that, this marathon runner because a CPA, and he has been a successful businessman in our community for many years. And so, the race continues.
Ross is also a man of faith. He is dedicated and an active volunteer at St. John Vianney Catholic Church and in the Sacramento Diocese. He serves on many committees for the Bishop and for St. John Vianney Parish. He is a member of the Knights of Columbus and the Mr. and Mrs. Club. He helps with the Cordova Food Locker which is located there and regularly coordinates with local business to procure baby food for families in need.
Ross' leadership has been experienced in many other ways. He was president of the Rancho Cordova Chamber of Commerce in the 1980s, and President of Rancho Cordova Rotary Club in the 1990s. He is a founding member of the Rancho Cordova Rotary Foundation and father of the Rancho Cordova Community Corps.
Ross' work with Rotary is legendary, and was a pathway to one of his greatest community achievements: Mather Lake Rotary Park. This is a 13-year labor of love and rare gift to the community of Rancho Cordova and greater Sacramento.
The project to convert an area adjacent to Mather Lake began in 1995 with the creation of Rotary District 5180 and the search for a project to benefit the region. Ross led the charge for the next 13 years as the painstaking process of developing 22 acres of park was undertaken by Rotary clubs around Sacramento. And while the project was carried out by hundreds of volunteers, it was Brigadier General Ross Johnson who led this marathon.
There is more:
For the City of Rancho Cordova, Ross has served as a member of the City Planning Commission and Redevelopment Oversight Committee. Though a retired general, he figured there was still something to learn and something to share, so he became a student of Leadership Rancho Cordova, which in turn led him to champion the formation of the Rancho Cordova Arts Commission.
Today, as the Cordova Community Council's board member with oversight for arts activities, Ross is helping foster the growth of the visual arts, the Rancho Cordova Community Concert Band and the Rancho Cordova Civic Light Orchestra â€“ all in the past 18 months. And so, the marathon continues.
Ross is a field commander but a good soldier, as well. His many hands on projects include Christmas in Cordova, Rotarians in Action, and on and on and on.
A rich life, indeed? But no area is more plentiful for Ross than his outstanding family that includes his bride of 42 years, Sandy; children Mark, Shelby and Ty, their partners; and five beautiful grandchildren.
Daughter Shelby said this:
"Makena, his oldest granddaughter, named him PopPop as one of her first words, and it has stuck. PopPop is a hands-on grandpa - he goes fishing, to the park, the zoo, all the typical grandpa spoiling -- but what makes him special is that he listens, he is intuitive and has a special relationship with each of his grandkids. He knows them. He knows when they need to be loud-silly-kids, and when they need to be quiet - often you will find the kids curled up with PopPop, being spoiled by his undivided attention. His children and grandchildren are certainly blessed."
Ross is also a dedicated son to Dora Ann Johnson. Dora is 90 years old, and has lived in Rancho Cordova for over 60 years. Wow.
Remember where we started?
"If you want to win something, run 100 meters. If you want to experience something, run a marathon."
Ross, you have certainly experienced life - through military service, community service, and loving and nurturing four generations of your own, special family as you have run the marathon of life.
As you have pounded out mile after mile of an extraordinary life, there undoubtedly have been flashes of pain and thrilling moments of victory and everything in between. But you have experienced life fully, and Rancho Cordova is richer for it.
It's a jungle out there, to be sure. But through your unselfish service and love of others you have shown us all how to swing from the trees. Congratulations!