Van Johnson, Jr.

van  johnson, jr.

April 24, 1968 ~ January 23, 2022

Van Everett Johnson, Jr., affectionately known as Vinnie, Caesar, and VJ to just name a few, was born on April 24, 1968, to the union of Van Sr. and Emma Ruth Johnson in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He came to know Jesus Christ at an early age and was a passionate pursuer of understanding His Word. He was a believer in Proverbs 2:6 “For the Lord grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” Van spent the majority of his worship experience as a member of New Testament Church and was actively involved in Sunday School, Breakfast with the Champs, and various other ministries. Through all of his challenges, Van expressed that God as his Savior and he spoke of His Grace and Mercy.   Van attended St. Bernadette School before graduating from Rufus King High School in 1986. During his high school years, Van was a member of the basketball team and was commonly known as “Van the Man”. Upon graduation, Van matriculated to Howard University in Washington D.C., where he earned his Bachelor of Business Administration-Finance Degree in 1990. He was a master communicator, organizer, networker, political analyst, businessman, and party planner. Van was the protégée of his late cousin Dennis Caver; he gained a remarkable ability to bring folks together with abounding charisma. Van ran for student body president at Howard University in 1989, and although he didn’t win the contested race, he made a significant impact on all stakeholders. He was a prominent figure during a student protest on campus and was instrumental in Howard University’s Administration making changes to accommodate the requests of the student body. Van was a faithful member of Campus Crusade for Christ while a student at Howard University.   Van began his professional career in 1990 with Cigna Life Insurance in Philadelphia, PA before moving to Chicago, IL with Prudential Life Insurance and later to Oakland, CA in 1993. He helped individuals and families provide financial security and peace of mind for their loved ones while working in the financial services industry. Most recently, Van began working with Milwaukee Public Schools as a Paraprofessional, embracing Head Start students at Hopkins-Lloyd Elementary School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he was loved and appreciated. In the Spring of 1994, Van moved from Oakland, CA to Milwaukee and joined the Xerox Corporation. Soon after, he married Sheri Pattillo. From this union, two wonderful children were born: Van Everett Johnson III and Benjamin Parks Johnson. In his leisure, Van enjoyed socializing with friends, playing bid whist, golfing, and spending time with his family. He spent many hours teaching his sons wit, charm and compassion. Van volunteered at Life Church in the food pantry on Saturdays, helping to feed homeless people and those without financial resources. Van transitioned to his heavenly home on Sunday, January 23, 2022. He was preceded in death by his mother, Emma Ruth Johnson, his father Van Everett Johnson, Sr., and his brother Calvin Taylor. Van is survived by his three children: Van E. Johnson, III (Milwaukee, WI); Benjamin Parks Johnson (Washington, D.C.), Alexander Del Rios Johnson; Uncles: Oscar (Jimmie) Johnson, Sr, William Johnson, Sr., Charles Johnson, Sr. (all of Milwaukee, WI); Aunts: Eva Flowers (Bayside, WI), Gwendolyn Anderson (Milwaukee, WI); Siblings: Clark (Rita) Sanford, Reverend Kenneth (Joyce) Woodson, James (Carla) Sanford, Raymond (Derrick) Tyler who all preceded the marriage of Van Sr. and Emma Johnson, and so many beloved friends, neighbors, classmates and relatives who brought him joy and comfort. In lieu of flowers, the family requests those who wish to express sympathy to consider contributing to a scholarship fund that will be established in the name of Van E. Johnson, Jr. All Services Trusted to: Paradise Memorial Funeral and Cremation Services 7625 W. Appleton Avenue Milwaukee, WI 53222 414-461-8000

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Memories Timeline


  1. While I was a year ahead of Van at King, our parents knew of each other back in the day. That familiarity continued along with my sister who was a year behind him, also at King. Then we all connected for some very special times at our beloved HU; along with a few of his cousins, other King alum and more Milwaukee “family” that we all became. We were proud to claim him on his historic run for HUSA President/VP and as an active member of our hometown Club affectionately called the “Wisconsin Brew Crew”. Fun times. May the family find comfort in knowing that Van’s magnetic personality crossed decades and miles. With sympathy, S.Hall (M. Hall)

  2. Wishing you peace to bring comfort, courage to face the days ahead and loving memories to forever hold in your hearts.

  3. I also attended Rufus King with Van, but my favorite memories are more recent. Watching his pride in his sons as they grew into men. He was always a cheerleader for people – ready with a kind word or “hooray” for life events. Ever supportive in a genuine and heartfelt way. He delighted in the happiness of others. He will be missed. May his memory be a blessing to his family.

  4. I attended Rufus King with Van. Although we were not in the same circles, we were both athlete/scholars at a “geek” school. Van had a big personality that created a vibe. Having young men of color that were leaders in high school in Milwaukee in the 1980’s was defining. Van impacted more than just the basketball team-he helped define Rufus King’s identity. I was sorry to hear of his passing so young. I am moved to read all he accomplished in his life. I will look forward to making a donation to a scholarship fund in his name. I wish peace and love to all his family and friends during this difficult time. May your faith sustain you.

  5. So many memories of Van… among the earliest was our first Freshman hoops game in the 82-83 season. Van dominated from start to finish with speed, skill and shotmaking. My dad was blown away. And I was proud to be on the same court with him.

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