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2009 July 9: Clifford Johnson

Clifford R. Johnson of Arlington Heights Clifford R. Johnson, 85, passed away peacefully Thursday, July 9, 2009, at his home in Arlington Heights surrounded by his loving family.

Clifford married to his college sweetheart, Mitzi Delich, Sept. 9, 1949 and was faithfully married for 60 years. He was son to Rose (deceased) and Anselm (deceased); and brother to Robert (deceased). He was born on South Side of Chicago Aug. 19, 1923, in the Englewood neighborhood. He graduated from Chicago Englewood High School ("Eagles") at 68th Street and Stewart Avenue on Chicago's South Side in 1941, where he was class president his Junior and Senior years, played quarterback and was captain of the football team, was the lead in high school stage productions and was voted "Most Likely to Succeed" by his classmates. He was a patrol leader with Boy Scout Troop #685 and achieved the rank of Eagle Scout.

His dear childhood friends describe him as a "sincere person with a firm handshake and a winning personality." He received a football scholarship to Michigan State University, where he studied economics from 1941 - 1943. He volunteered for service in the Army during World War II and he served as a sergeant, US Army, 2nd Armored Division, 66th Armored Regiment, and Company E 1943 - 1945. He landed on Normandy D-day plus 3 (June 9, 1944) and commanding a tank. He participated in and was injured in the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944 and received the Purple Heart and was honorably discharged. He returned from Europe to finish his college degree under the G.I. bill at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., with a Bachelor of Science (1947) and was president of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity and co-chairman of the 1946 homecoming festivities. It was at Northwestern where he met Mitzi Delich who would later become his life companion and wife of 60 years. Cliff received a Master's of Business Administration from Harvard University's Advanced Management program in 1973. He was a resident of the Village of Arlington Heights for 47 years where he was a member of the village plan commission, and was a founding member of the Southminster Presbyterian Church and later served as trustee and elder for the church.

He was also a founder of the Northwest Trust and Savings Bank in Arlington Heights and served as a director for its board, and following it acquisition by the First Illinois Bank corporation he served that board as well until its merger with the Banc One Corporation. He worked for Jewel Companies, Inc., for 37 years and ascended to the title of Executive Vice President of Real Estate, Construction and Development. He was responsible for and oversaw the growth and development of the multiple companies under the Jewel Corporate umbrella and was regarded as one of the premier retail real estate executives in the United States during the 1960s -1980s.

He was instrumental in the acquisitions of Eisner Foods Stores and Osco Drug. This helped drive the Jewel's expansion from the small stand alone store concept in the 1950s to the Jewel-Osco combination stores during the 1960s, `70s and `80s which helped Jewel achieve the number one retail grocery market share position in Chicago. He was involved with The Jewel Concepts stressing good citizenship within the community, "watching the horizon," and the sponsorship of young people. Clifford was also involved with the acquisition and development of other Jewel Companies retail concept initiatives during this time frame including Turn*Style, White Hen Pantries, the Jewel Grand Bazaar, Republic Lumber, and many others. Upon Jewel Companies' acquisition by American Stores in 1984, he was retained by the new owners to provide his guidance for the transition, finally retiring from American Stores in 1986. He was father to and is survived by his four children (Susan, Glenn, Jeanne, Bob); and grandfather to 10 (Andrew, Benjamin, Carrie, Katy, Eli, Henry, RoseBeth, Alec, Will and James).

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