Harry L. Johnson, 91, retired Southern Pacific trainmaster in Tracy and an active community volunteer, died Dec. 23 at home.
He was a Tracy resident for 51 years and for 23 years headed S.P.’s Tracy operations, now part of the Union Pacific.
Mr. Johnson was born in Berkeley and raised in Fresno. He was a 1941 graduate of Fresno High School and attended Fresno State College.
After entering the Army at the beginning of World War II, Mr. Johnson served in the Mediterranean Theater. Beginning in January 1944, his unit, the 361st Infantry, was in the center of intense fighting in the Anzio Beachhead on Italy’s western coast. German artillery and machine gun fire from nearby hills rained down on the American forces in the flooded marshlands below for more than three months. Mr. Johnson, a sergeant, was the only member of his company to survive.
The unit was awarded a Presidential Citation, and Mr. Johnson, two Purple Hearts. He also pitched in the Army Mediterranean Baseball League.
On returning home in 1945, Mr. Johnson began working for the S.P. in Fresno as a switchman. He later was transferred to Bakersfield, where he was a yardmaster and trainmaster.
In 1963, Mr. Johnson came to Tracy as trainmaster. With his outgoing personality, he would tell S.P. employees that “every day was a holiday,” earning him the nickname of “Holiday Harry.”
He retired in 1986, after 41 years with the railroad, but remained living in Tracy while staying active as a community volunteer.
Mr. Johnson was one of the volunteers who worked several months to finish construction of the Boys and Girls Clubs facility on West Lowell Avenue. He also served on the club’s board of directors.
Mr. Johnson became a regular spectator and booster of high school sports in Tracy. He was recognized as Tracy’s most successful salesman of fund-raising tickets for school projects and athletic programs. His salesmanship also supported service clubs, including the Tracy Rotary Club, of which he was a longtime member with 50 years of perfect attendance. He had also been a member of the Elks, Masons and Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Survivors include his wife of 70 years, Thelma Johnson of Tracy; and two daughters and their husbands, Gail and Gary Holderbein of Tracy and Susan and Delaine Bradway of Clovis.
Also surviving are four grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.
A celebration of life is planned from 2 to 5 p.m. Feb. 16, his birthday, at the Tracy Elks Lodge, 6400 W. 11th St.
The family prefers memorial contributions in Mr. Johnson’s name to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Tracy, 753 W. Lowell Ave., Tracy, CA 95376; or McHenry House Tracy Family Shelter, 739 A St., Tracy , CA 95376; or a charity of the donor’s choice.