Icon of Sumner Eric Johnson dies

NICOLE MATHEWSON
Last updated 15:12 19/03/2014

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Sumner's "iconic son" Eric Johnson has pushed out his boat for the last time, aged 89.

The keen boatie and fisherman lived in the Christchurch seaside suburb all his life, before his death on Friday from a heart condition.

His wife of 54 years, Vivienne, and five children have paid tribute to the "loyal and caring family and great friend" and described him as Sumner's "iconic son".

"It was truly in his blood, Sumner," son Tim Johnson said. "He knew a lot of people. It was just his nature to reach out to people and connect."

Johnson said his father had written that when he died he would have metaphorically "pushed out my boat for the last time".

His love of the sea and his "viking ancestry" was also reflected in his request for an unusual coffin "matching his idiosyncratic nature".

"It was a boat themed coffin, set up like a viking ship."

His interest in boats and the sea came at an early age, along with a "taste" for motorcycles. After retiring 25 years ago, he developed a love of garage sales and became a keen collector of masks and statuettes.

Vivienne Johnson said her husband was a "very interesting" character, who always made her laugh.

"He knew a lot about a lot of things. He was a great fix-it person, a handyman, but sailing was his love."

Eric Johnson made headlines in December 2012 when he was spotted using his mobility scooter to tow his beloved boat, Joy, to the Sumner boat ramp.

Johnson told The Press at the time that old age and health problems were not enough to stop him from launching his "retirement joy" at Sumner's boat ramp.

Johnson also made headlines in 2010 when he protested against Environment Canterbury (ECan) over a rates bill.

Tim Johnson said many Cantabrians had been upset when the Government replaced ECan's elected councillors with commissioners, and his father had "put his hand up to say 'we're not ok with this'.

"He wanted to cause a stir."

A celebration of Johnson's life will be held for family and friends at the Mount Pleasant Yacht Club at 2pm on Monday.

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- The Press

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