Reflecting on WWII, 75 years of marriage


Walter and Sybil Johnson recently celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary.

DENVER — A little more than 1 percent of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II are still living, according to the National WWII Museum in New Orleans. 

Among the 6,600 living World War II vets in North Carolina is Walter Johnson, a 97-year-old who lives in Denver. Walter, a Navy veteran who fought in the war during his service from 1943-1946, shot down Japanese planes while stationed on the U.S.S. Iowa, a battleship in the Pacific.

Following the war, Walter returned home to Asheville and joined a friend for a hitchhiking trip across the country. It was during a stop in Dallas when he first saw Sybil, the woman that would later become his wife. More than seven decades after their wedding, their love is stronger than ever. 

“We’ve never had any big problems in our lifetime,” Sybil said. 

The couple went to live at Sybil’s home in Emery, Texas, her hometown, before eventually relocating back to Dallas. They soon followed Walter’s identical twin brother, Bill, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the war and has since died, to Washington, D.C., before ultimately settling in the Charlotte region. 

“We did just about everything together,” said Walter. “We played together and stayed together as much as we could.” 

Walter recalled the time his brother spent the night on the U.S.S. Iowa while stationed in Honolulu, when he was questioned by a high-ranking officer who mistook him for his brother, since they looked the same. 

“He asked, ‘Walter, what are you doing wearing that Marine uniform?” Walter said. 

The couple spends most of their time at their home steps away from Lake Norman, cared for by their daughter, Lee Ann Miller, who also lives in Denver. 

 

Veteran outreach 

Denver resident Kevin Popko, a former Marine, met the Johnsons through a group he started to help veterans in the Denver area struggling with PTSD and depression after returning home. When more people join, he wants to form a taskforce to assist veterans, and eventually host fundraising events to raise awareness about issues they face.  

“There might be vets who are older that don’t have family nearby to care for them,” said Popko. “They might need someone to take them out to lunch, bring them food or walk their dog. That’s what’s in my head for down the road, and starting the group is a way to meet other vets and figure out who likes doing what.” 

For more information about the group, contact Kevin Popko at kevinpopko@yahoo.com.

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