It was March 25, 1950. Lee Johnson Sr. and Betty Johnson celebrated the birth of their second child, Lee Howard Johnson Jr., known to most as Howard. Howard, aged 71, went to meet his lord, parents, brother and wife on December 30, 2021.
Howard grew up in a musical house, using drums to switch to piano and organ. He played with the Pip Squeaks, a group of young children around 3 to 8 years old who trained after school. The preformed Pip Squeaks on the “Uncle Tom Show” on WLUK, WBAY TV in Green Bay and WLUC TV in Marquette.
Howard began working at Jay’s Sewing Center selling pianos and organs while in college. His musical knowledge and writing skills earned him a job writing music articles for the Iron Mountain Daily News, located next to Jay’s, where he sold pianos and organs. While in high school he moved next door to start working with the local AM radio station WMIQ and became a DJ (Disc Jockey) on live radio. It was a time when people still called to hear their local hits and each record had to be hand queued and turned. HJ the DJ may still be remembered by some.
Howard’s love and fascination with radio didn’t end at the end of his shift. He designed and set up a radio station with the help of his uncle who had knowledge and experience working on radio equipment while in the Air Force. When completed, the radio station aired in the basement of his parents’ house with the call letters, WQIS (Wonderful Quinnesec Illegal Station). While the radio broadcast signal was limited, the experience he gained was the basis of his life’s successful career. On this station he was HJ on the PM.
After graduating from high school, Howard married Sandra Martignon, moved to Appleton to work and eventually manage the WYNE radio station. Howard and Sandy have two children, Carrie and Beth.
Howard recognized that the radio industry was consolidating and moving into a satellite and corporate industry. He believed in local small market radio and made it a viable format. He has been a mentor to many small market radios and to this day many of his associates still refer to WWHD, “What would Howard do?” “
From Appleton, the family moved to Frederick, Maryland, to manage the WMHI FM radio station. In Frederick, Howard began using his signature business name, “The truth” Howard Johnson. After changing the call letters WMHI to WZYQ, he reformatted the station using Z104 as the tagline. Z104 was extremely popular and won Billboard Magazine’s Best Small Market Radio Station of the Year. This coveted Billboard Award was presented to a small select group of radio people, singling out Howard as one of the premier leaders in the broadcasting industry.
Howard then married his second wife, Patti Leigh Stellato. Still the head of radio stations, he has moved nationwide including Two Rivers, Wisconsin, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Bakersfield, California, Fayetteville, North Carolina, and Albany, in Georgia. the twin cities.
Howard was predeceased by his parents Lee and Betty Johnson, and his wife Patti Leigh Johnson and a younger brother.
He is survived by his children, Carrie (Jason) Smith of Franklin, Tennessee, and Beth (Jerry) Conroy of Hagerstown, Maryland, Toni Ann Stellato, Joseph Patrick Stellato; two brothers, David (Nancy) Johnson, Jamie (Mindy) Johnson; two sisters, Laurene (Jeff) Gustafson and Ava Johnson-Mitchell; and several nieces and nephews.
Funeral arrangements will be announced at a later date.