Obituary: Fernly Johnson

BATAVIA, IL (September 19, 2014) — A public memorial service for Fernly Johnson, who helped guide the medical work at Swedish Covenant Hospital and form the Paul Carlson Medical Group, will be conducted at 2 p.m. Sunday, October 19, at the Holmstad retirement community.

He died August 17 in Batavia. A family service and burial were held on August 23.

Fernly, 96, was born August 21, 1918, in Otisco, Minnesota. He married Grace Wall on September 2, 1939. She died in 2004. He married Marian Johnson in 2006.

He attended North Park College in Chicago, the University of Chicago, and the University of Illinois. He received his M.D. degree from the University of Illinois College of Medicine in 1943, graduating first in his class, and then served as a physician in the United States Navy until 1947, seeing action in the Pacific Theater, including the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

After the war he did a surgical residency at Hines VA Hospital and then worked in private practice as a general surgeon at Swedish Covenant Hospital for many years where he was president of the medical staff and chief of surgery. He was a charter member and served on the board of the Paul Carlson Medical Program (now the Paul Carlson Partnership). He served on the Board of North Park College and Theological Seminary. He also served on the denomination’s World Missions Board.

Fernly did short-term mission work in the Congo. Although the work was not under the direction of the Covenant, his ministry included working with Paul Carlson a year before he was killed in 1964. From 1969 to 1976, Fernly was a physician at the OAU Clinic in Kinshasa and helped redevelop the local hospital and medical programs, which included having residents from the University of Illinois surgical program do three-month rotations as an elective.

From 1976 to 1981 he served as campus physician at McKinley Hospital at the University of Illinois, Champaign, until he retired.

Fernly was a lifelong member of the Evangelical Covenant Church, and for the past 23 years he was a member of the Evangelical Covenant Church of Villa Park. He served the Villa Park Church in numerous leadership capacities.

He is survived by his widow, Marian E. Johnson; four sons, Ronald, Dennis, Bruce, and Kenneth; three daughters, Carolyn Thyreen, Linda Gagliano, and Karen Chapin; three stepchildren, 23 grandchildren, 23 great-grandchildren, many step-grandchildren, and step great-grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be directed to Paul Carlson Partnership in care of the Evangelical Covenant Church and mailed to 8303 West Higgins Road, Chicago, IL 60631. Online donations can be made at


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  • My family will be forever grateful to Fernly Johnson. In 1958 while I was a student at North Park, Dr. Johnson performed cancer surgery on my mother. What I will never forget is when Dr. Johnson prayed with my family before he took my mother into surgery. The surgery was totally successful and my mother lived another 38 years as a result. Praise God for this wonderful man and his fantastic life.

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