David Reed Johnson, 78, cofounder of firm

David Reed Johnson
David Reed Johnson
Posted: March 05, 2013

David Reed Johnson, 78, cofounder of Johnson, Kendall & Johnson Property & Casualty Insurance Co., died of respiratory failure Sunday, Feb. 24, at Chandler Hall Hospice in Newtown.

In 1959, Mr. Johnson; his brother, Edwin T.; and Ted S. Kendall founded the Johnson Co., an insurance brokerage and risk-management firm.

To serve life-insurance clients requesting information about pensions, retirement plans, and health insurance, the brothers established a consulting firm in 1963 that evolved into the Johnson Cos.

In 1980, Johnson Cos. vice president Ted Benna discovered a way to take advantage of section 401(k) of the new IRS code. He proposed an innovative retirement plan that permitted matching funds from employers and gave employees both a tax break and a voice in deciding where their money could be invested.

The concept took off like a rocket; the Johnson Cos. formed a consulting branch, Johnson Benna, to handle the new business.

In 1992, Johnson Benna was broken off and sold to Noble Lowndes, a British firm. Johnson, Kendall & Johnson lived on as an insurance brokerage and risk-management firm, but Mr. Johnson was not involved. He retired from the merged Johnson Benna in the mid-1990s after several years of consulting.

John Wright, current president of Johnson, Kendall & Johnson Inc. in Newtown, said Mr. Johnson was revered by his colleagues as a founder of the original company.

"He was a very good businessman, but also a very good human being. He had a good personal touch and was very empathetic," Wright said.

Mr. Johnson received the National Association of Life Underwriters' National Quality Award, 1967 to 1969, as well as the National Sales Achievement Award, 1966 to 1969, and was awarded lifetime membership to the Million Dollar Round Table.

"He found great honor and pleasure in sharing his knowledge and experience with his associates, who continue to this day to use their understanding of insurance, retirement, and health care successfully," his family said.

Mr. Johnson was born Nov. 19, 1934, in Bristol to Clara Reed and Charles Johnson. He lived there and later in Newtown.

Mr. Johnson graduated from Bristol High School in 1952, and from Gettysburg College in 1956. He earned his Chartered Life Underwriting degree from the American College of Life Underwriters in 1965.

He served in the U.S. Navy and its reserve as a lieutenant junior grade from 1956 to 1967.

His civic life was extensive. He served with the Lower Bucks County Chamber of Commerce, Lower Bucks Underwriters Association, Bucks County Estate Planning, and the Newtown Development and Planning Committee.

His family said he was proud to be an original board member of Bucks County Community College and of his work with the Bucks County Community College Foundation. He served as a deacon and elder in the Newtown Presbyterian Church.

His family described Mr. Johnson as "generous, loving, humble, mirthful, neighborly, and friendly."

Raised along the Delaware River, Mr. Johnson early on developed a love of boating. He built several boats and an "amazing" tree house, daughter Jan Marx said.

"He was a wonderful craftsman with wood, and was passionate about working with his hands," Marx said.

Mr. Johnson was married for 52 years to the former Charlotte Louise Fink. She was a teacher at his old high school; he arranged a meeting on the pretense of selling her insurance. Six months later, they married.

His wife died in 2010, and Mr. Johnson missed her. "I am dying to dance with your mother," he said recently.

In addition to his daughter, Mr. Johnson is survived two other daughters, Lynd Johnson and Carla Fynan; six grandchildren; and a niece and nephew.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, March 9, at Newtown Presbyterian Church, 25 N. Chancellor St., Newtown. Interment is private.

Donations may be made to the World Wildlife Fund at www.WorldWildlife.org.

Contact Bonnie L. Cook at 215-854-2611 or bcook@phillynews.com.


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