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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on June 25th, 2014, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 15, Issue 16 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 15, Issue 16

Hobnobbing With Helen

BY HELEN ANN THOMAS


REMEMBERING DAN
Melinda Johansson (left) chatted with Kristen Harlow Johnson at the fourth annual Daniel Johnson Memorial Golf Tournament held at the Santa Maria Country Club on Monday, June 16. Johnson is the widow of Senior Airman Daniel Johnson. Johansson is the Development and Marketing Manager for the Family Services Agency.
PHOTO BY HELEN ANN THOMAS

Some things are like Topsy Turvy tomato plants—they just grow and grow and grow. 

One such thing that has definitely grown is the Daniel Johnson Memorial Golf Tournament, held at the Santa Maria Country Club. This year’s tournament—the fourth annual—took place on Monday, June 16.

“We had 128 golfers,” Country Club golf pro Mike Valdez told me, “40 more than last year.”

The tournament was so popular that Kristen Harlow Johnson remarked, “We thought we were going to have to turn people away.”

The tournament is held in honor of Kristen’s husband, Vandenberg Air Force Base Senior Airman Daniel Johnson, who died during his second deployment to Afghanistan in October 2010.

Because Johnson was a devoted participant in Lompoc’s Big Brother Big Sister program, the daylong event benefits the Family Services Agency’s branch of the nonprofit.

Since the first tournament, this event has raised more than $30,000 for the Big Brother Big Sister program.

Brooks Wise, John Will, Ted Ortiz, Mike Bouquet, and Dan Cusack were among the sportsmen. Also bringing out their clubs for the occasion were Bryn Smith, Bill Ostini, Dan Snowden, and Rob Buchanan. And as he has in the past, Jim Johnson, Airman Johnson’s dad, flew in from Wisconsin to be present.


GOLF EVENT THREESOME
(From left to right) Mary Harvey, Lisa Brabo, and Denise Hinkle catch up on conversation before dinner at the golf tournament. Lompoc’s Harvey is a board member of the Family Services Agency, of which Brabo is executive director and Hinkle is development and communications director.
PHOTO BY HELEN ANN THOMAS

Tickets were $150 and included golf, lunch, dinner, wine during cocktail hour, and the opportunity to bid on great silent auction items. My faves were dinner for six or eight at places like Rooney’s and Trattoria Uliveto.

Golfers received a golf shirt and towel at check-in. The dinner buffet offered lasagna and pasta Alfredo at one table and the making of chicken tacos at another.

Of course, dessert was the Country Club’s popular make-your-own-sundae bar.

During a brief after-dinner program, guests watched a moving presentation of photos of Airman Johnson—from childhood to high school to his wedding to just before his death.

The family also arranged an exhibit with the airman’s helmet, the flag that covered his coffin, his Bronze Star and Purple Heart medals, and certifications of commendation, including one signed by the president.

It was impossible to view the mementoes of Johnson’s life and not feel sorrow and sadness for the family’s and the nation’s loss.

During the program, a current Big Brother from Vandenberg, Lt. Andrew Beckman, and his little brother spoke about Big Brothers.


AFTER GOLF
Matt Burton (left) with Larry Harlow at the golf tournament. Harlow is the late Daniel Johnson’s father-in-law.
PHOTO BY HELEN ANN THOMAS

David*, a teenager with a winsome smile, lost his dad when he was very young.

“I never had a role model,” he told the 100-plus people gathered in the dining room.

That problem righted itself when Beckman signed up for the Big Brother program with the YSA and became David’s Big Bro. Beckman is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado.

“I told David that if he made a 3.0 grade point average for the first semester, I would take him to Six Flags,” Beckman remarked. Guess who is going to Six Flags this summer?

“We hang out, we go camping, we watch the Super Bowl together,” Beckman said.

Added David, “He means a lot to me. I am very glad to have Andrew in my life.”

If you want to be someone’s Andrew or Dan, you can call Big Brother Big Sisters at 925-1100 in Santa Maria or 735-4376, Ext. 26, in Lompoc.

 

*This name has been changed.

 

To hobnob with Helen, you may contact her at helenthom232@yahoo.com.