Johnson named ‘Placer County Senior of the Year

Volunteer with Kiwanis, historical society a driving force in Rocklin
By: Andrew Westrope, Staff Writer
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Rocklin resident Gene Johnson was honored as the “Placer County Senior of the Year” last month in return for what his colleagues call countless hours of community service in organizations like Kiwanis Club and the Rocklin Historical Society.

Johnson accepted the award from Seniors First on March 14, chosen from among 10 nominees at a luncheon at the Sunset Center in Rocklin co-hosted by Sutter Health, Help at Home Senior Care, Senior Care Consulting and Casa de Santa Fe Senior Living.

Johnson was nominated by fellow Kiwanis member Ken Patterson, who credited him with leading the Kiwanis’ See’s Candy fundraiser, the “K Kids” holiday shopping spree, the Christmas tree lighting ceremony and the Rocklin Community Festival, among other things.

“Gene does more things personally than most clubs or organizations do for their community,” Patterson said. “He’s amazing. I’m amazed at everything that he does for Rocklin and the surrounding communities. He’s a very big organizer. He doesn’t like to take a lot of credit, but he’s just all over.”

Seniors First volunteer Veronica Gonzalez said the award always goes to someone more than 65 years old who is chosen by community members based on nomination forms.

“(Johnson) was selected because of all the things he has done for Kiwanis,” she said. “He also belongs to the Rocklin Historic Society, and he also helps with his church. All around, he has done so much for his community.”

Born and raised in Rocklin of a pioneering family, Johnson has lived here most of his days, outside a 15-year stint in New York, Connecticut and other areas of California. He said he was “flattered” by the award and accepted it on behalf of so many other volunteers involved in the same projects.

Asked why he dedicates such time and energy to these projects, Johnson is both humble and grateful.

“It’s just a will to improve our old town, really. I think that’s pretty much it,” he said. “It’s just rewarding to work with folks. Now that we’ve done these things, and we see how people enjoy the festival and the tree lighting, and the museum, and of course the chapel, it’s just really rewarding to see how those things can come together and improve the community.”

At 76, Johnson shows no signs of slowing down: His next big project, in between the annual ones, is to keep the historic chapel and museum from being sold off since their proprietors were dissolved. He said he has been writing letters and meeting with representatives to ask that the properties be transferred to the city, even though they do not currently meet all the necessary criteria for that. He expects that will need to be resolved before the end of the year.

Gonzalez said Seniors First is already taking applications for next year’s nominees, and anyone with a candidate in mind should call her at (916) 343-3481.