Lee Howard Johnson Jr.

Lee Howard Johnson Jr.

It was March 25, 1950. Lee Johnson Sr. and Betty Johnson celebrated the birth of their second child, Lee Howard Johnson Jr., known by most folks as Howard. Howard at the age of 71 went to meet his Lord, parents, bother, and wife on Dec. 30, 2021.

Howard grew up in a musical home taking advantage of playing the drums and moving onto the piano and organ. He played along with the Pip Squeaks, a band of young children from 3 years old to about 8 years old that practiced after school. The Pip Squeaks preformed on the “Uncle Tom Show” on WLUK, WBAY TV in Green Bay and WLUC TV in Marquette.

Howard began working at Jay’s Sewing Center selling pianos and organs while he was in junior high. His musical knowledge and writing abilities landed him a job writing articles about music for the Iron Mountain Daily News which was located next door to Jay’s where he was selling pianos and organs. While in high school, he moved next door to begin working with the local AM radio station WMIQ and became a DJ (Disc Jockey) on live radio. This was a time that folks would still call in to hear their local hits and each record had to be queued by hand and spun. Some may still remember HJ the DJ.

Howard’s love and fascination for radio didn’t stop when his shift ended. He designed and implemented a radio station with the help of his uncle who had knowledge and experience working on radio equipment while in the Air Force. When completed, the radio station went on the air in the basement of his parent’s home with the call letters, WQIS (Wonderful Quinnesec Illegal Station). While the radio broadcast signal was limited, the experience he gained was the foundation for his life’s successful career. On this station he was HJ on the PM.

Upon graduating from high school, Howard married Sandra Martignon, moved to Appleton to work for and eventually manage radio station WYNE. Howard and Sandy have two children, Carrie and Beth.

Lee Howard Johnson Jr.

Howard recognized that the radio industry was consolidating and moving to a satellite and corporate industry. He believed in small market local radio and made this a viable format. He was a mentor to many in small market radio and to this day many of his associates still refer to WWHD, “What Would Howard Do?”

From Appleton, the family moved to Frederick, Maryland to manage radio station WMHI FM. In Frederick, Howard began using his signature trade name, “The Real” Howard Johnson. After changing WMHI call letters to WZYQ, he reformatted the station using Z104 as a slogan. Z104 was extremely popular and achieved the Best Small Market Radio Station of the year award from Billboard magazine. This coveted Billboard award has been given to a small select group of radio people, distinguishing Howard as one of the top leaders in the radio broadcast industry.

Howard then married his second wife, Patti Leigh Stellato. Still managing radio stations, he moved throughout the country including Two Rivers, Wis. Albuquerque, N.M., Bakersfield, Calif., Fayetteville, N.C. and Albany, Ga. Finally settling down in Minnesota as the group general manager for the BOB FM radio group in the Twin Cities.

Howard was preceded in death by his parents Lee and Betty Johnson, and his wife Patti Leigh Johnson and an infant brother.

He is survived by his children, Carrie (Jason) Smith of Franklin, Tenn., and Beth (Jerry) Conroy of Hagerstown, Maryland, Toni Ann Stellato, Joseph Patrick Stellato; two brothers, David (Nancy) Johnson, Jamie (Mindy) Johnson; two sisters, Laurene (Jeff) Gustafson and Ava Johnson-Mitchell; and many nieces and nephews.

Funeral arrangements will be announced at a future date.