Born in North Carolina in 1917, Elizabeth was just two years old when her mother passed away, and she was sent to live with relatives in Salt Lake City. She said she seemed to have been “born with some kind of spunk inside—and a good dose of integrity and ability to see the true nature of people.” As a young “Tri Delt” at the University of Utah, she met and four years later married Raymond Irvin Johnson, an outstanding head-of-his-class “Pi Kap.” True to her ability to discern a person’s nature, she had fallen in love with a man who would become one of Utah’s most successful businessmen.
Raymond Irvin Johnson—the youngest person ever to pass the CPA exam at age 22—was immediately snapped up by the FBI where he worked as a special agent, using his expertise to uncover a number of illegal financial schemes. After he resigned from the FBI, he started his own construction firm—the largest in Marin County, California, and nearby Lake Tahoe. Throughout their marriage, Elizabeth took immense pleasure and pride in planting and nurturing her lush gardens, creating warm and welcoming homes, and traveling the world.
Elizabeth and Raymond's grandson, David Kelby Johnson, was just eight years old when he was hit and killed by a drunk driver while standing on the sidewalk on the street corner of Main Street in Salt Lake City. That tragedy forever changed and affected Elizabeth; she remained a relentless crusader against drunk driving for the rest of her life. Even in her later years Elizabeth had to stop and take a deep breath whenever she thought of the sad and senseless loss of her grandson.
“I’ve always stood up for what I believe in,” Elizabeth was fond of saying. “And I really believe in Moran. This gift will help so many desperate young people to restore their sight and give them hope for a brighter future. David would be so delighted to know that he will forever be a part of that.”
The David Kelby Johnson Memorial Foundation
One of Elizabeth's greatest wishes had been to honor and share the memory of her late grandson, David Kelby Johnson. In 2013 she made that wish come true with an extraordinary, heart-felt donation to the Moran Eye Center’s ongoing outreach programs—locally and around the world. The center’s namesake, John A. Moran, matched her donation of one million dollars, and Mrs. Johnson happily christened it the “David Kelby Johnson Hope Fund.” Since October 2013, at each Moran outreach mission the team has hung a huge banner with David’s face and name on it. They will continue to fly the banner at each eye camp that they establish, eventually covering twenty-two countries on six continents.
It is from this inspiration we continue doing the work and carrying out Elizabeth's wishes to give to those in need in the name and honor of her grandson David Kelby Johnson. Our foundation is dedicated to giving sight and other critical services to those in need.