Mark Brian Johnson, 65, of Traverse City, passed away Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017. Mark was born in Petoskey and grew up in Mancelona the youngest child of Fred and Elizabeth (Trall) Johnson.
In high school he met the love of his life, a German foreign exchange student named Ursula. They attended Michigan State University, where they both studied social work. The two moved to Germany and after a few years as an overworked and underpaid social worker, Mark knew something had to change. He was drinking cheap wine at the time and it was still costing half of his meager pay. He knew he needed to figure out a way to drink better wine and not have it eat so heavily into his pockets. He decided to begin an apprenticeship as a wine maker and earned an engineering degree in enology in Geisenheim, Germany.
In 1975 he was married to Ursula. In 1982 the couple welcomed their daughter, Johanna. Two sons followed, Lars in 1984 and Mattias in 1986.
Mark relocated to Traverse City in 1983. He planted the second vineyard on Old Mission Peninsula. He worked as a winemaker at Chateau Grand Traverse early in his career before his move to Chateau Chantal in 1993, where he worked tirelessly to build something special. He poured himself into promoting Michigan wines and it was abundantly clear that he was one of the lucky ones who was doing what he loved.
Mark was a witty guy, comfortable at the center of any party. He told outrageous stories, some were even true. He was master of the pun. He knew most Dr. Seuss books by heart, and lately a number of toddler books to entertain the two little people he loved more than life itself. And he loved life. He loved floating on the bay with a glass of wine, with a good book or in fellowship with his many friends. He loved his green little babies in the vineyard and all that was connected with the wine business and loved the happiness shared with colleagues and customers. He left his "Mark" on us all.
He is survived by his wife and partner, Ursula; his children, Johanna (Gustavo) Lascano, Lars Johnson (Nataliya Baytalskaya) and Mattias (Lisa) Johnson; his grandchildren, Lia Lascano and Ezra Johnson; his siblings, Janet Severance and Terry Johnson; and many other family members and friends.
A celebration of life will be held on Friday, Sept. 8, at 5:30 p.m., at Sunset Park, followed by a sunset reception at Chateau Chantal at 7 p.m.
In lieu of sending flowers, the family would prefer donations to Safe Harbor of Grand Traverse (www.gtsafeharbor.org) or Justice For Our Neighbors - West Michigan (www.jfonwestmichigan.org) facilitated by Central United Methodist Church.
Please share your thoughts and memories of Mark with his family by way of his online guestbook at www.reynolds-jonkhoff.com.
The family is being cared for by the Reynolds-Jonkhoff Funeral Home and Cremation Services.
Published on September 5, 2017