A brilliant man who worked at Anderson Tool, Emil Johnson spent hours in his garage perfecting the ring punch. In 1941 he received a patent for his invention and founded Ring Punch and Die in 1945 to manufacture it. Emil served as the organization’s president until he sold the business in 1959.
To Paul Johnson, no relation, he was simply Emil, a man who became like a grandfather to him.
“Emil was the kindest, most generous, creative man who had a can-do attitude about everything,” Paul said. “He was a true gentleman.”
Paul’s father, Richard, worked as an engineer at Ring Punch for years with Emil and the two became close friends. In 1952, the year Paul was born, Richard, Emil and another family from Ring Punch all bought adjacent land and built homes along the lake on what is now known as Pleasant View Avenue in Bemus Point.
“I spent a great deal of my early life with Emil, and my father, visiting Ring Punch and Die while it was located at Fenton Place,” Paul said. “I remember going to see the new site when it was being built on Turner Road.”
While a building a successful business was important to Emil, it paled in comparison to his desire to build good in his community.
Every summer, Emil and his wife, Gertrude, hosted a picnic at their home and invited their neighbors, friends and family to celebrate life on the lake.
“Each year, (Emil) named me the president of his picnic,” Paul said. “We would go around the neighborhood and collect picnic tables and chairs. He always treated me like I was important, even though I was just a kid.”
As the years went on, Emil and Gertrude led by example, treating their neighbors like family, always willing to lend a helping hand.
“(Emil) had the first snow blower in the neighborhood, and winters on the lake were quite harsh,” Paul recalled. “But Emil regularly would make his rounds on those snowy days with his snow blower getting everyone out.”
In the 1960s, while many feared a nuclear attack, Emil built a bomb shelter near his home and let the people in his neighborhood know they were welcome to use it, if the time came.
“As a kid I know that it gave me a great deal of comfort to know we had a safe place to go if something were to happen,” Paul said.
In August 1964, Gertrude woke and found Emil having a hard time breathing. After calling the paramedics, her next call was to Paul’s father.
“My dad ran over to their house and performed CPR on Emil until the ambulance arrived,” Paul said. “But it was too late.”
Although his passing was a complete surprise to everyone, Emil made sure to plan for Gertrude, and his community, should anything happen to him.
For the next 30 years, Gertrude supported her community like Emil did. She took care of those closest to her, including Emil’s sister Elsie, as well as, supported the construction of a new church, St. Timothy’s Lutheran Church.
Following her passing in 1994, the remainder of the Johnson’s estate was left to help others in their community, forever.
The Emil M. and Gertrude E. Johnson Fund has provided more than $730,000 to the community in the nearly 25 years it has been a part of the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation.
Grants from the fund have supported neighborhood revitalization, lake maintenance and community projects, all things Paul believes Emil and Gertrude would have loved.
“Emil was a very forward thinker for his time,” Paul said. “To see what he and Gertrude’s legacy has done for this community would make him very happy.”
Every gift creates a story. This story was inspired by gifts to The Emil M. and Gertrude E. Johnson Fund.
For 40 years, the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation has worked together with its inspiring donors, selfless volunteers and grateful community organizations to share their stories for enriching the quality of life for all who live here.