George Johnson ’73

Dr. George Metcalfe Johnson, 70, passed away peacefully Jan. 6, 2022, at his home in Peoria, Illinois, with his loving wife, Colleen Otto Johnson, at his side. George was a pediatric infectious disease specialist who cared deeply for his patients. He was shown that same love and care by his wife Colleen, her son David, and David’s wife Ashley in his final years battling a rare form of Alzheimer’s disease.

George was born March 24, 1951, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, to Catherine “Georgia” Smith Johnson and George R Johnson. He is survived by his wife Colleen; five sons, Derek (Jody), Ian, Matthew, and Michael, all of Charleston, South Carolina, and Scott of Atlanta, Georgia; brother Alan Johnson (Lilly) of Maine; stepson Dennison David (Ashley) Thomas and the brightest light in his life, granddaughter Olivia Galloway Thomas, all of Urbana; brother-in-law Daniel M. Otto of Los Angeles; his treasured dog Reilly; and a loving circle of extended family and friends in Peoria and everywhere else he has been.

George graduated from Hope College in Holland Michigan in 1973, and the University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill in 1977. George completed his pediatric residency at the University of Connecticut, where he also served as Chief Resident, and his infectious disease fellowship at the University of Minnesota. George also served as a pediatrician in the National Health Service Corps in Huntsville, Alabama. George held faculty appointments at the State University of New York; University of Connecticut; Medical University of South Carolina, where he served as Division Director, Residency Program Director and Vice Chair of Education; the Greenville Hospital System; and most recently University of Illinois in Peoria & OSF Children’s Hospital, with his colleague and close friend Dr. Barry Gray, who George had known since fellowship. George worked tirelessly for the children he cared for as a pediatrician for over 42 years, most notably during the HIV/AIDS epidemic as a frontline clinician and researcher. He was a gifted physician and diagnostician and he contributed to over 150 publications and research articles. George received many awards and distinctions throughout his career including national recognition for HIV research. He served on the Committee of the Pediatric AIDS Clinical Trial Group (PACTG) in various capacities including being elected to the executive committee and various leadership roles within PACTG . George was selected to America’s Top Pediatricians by Consumers’ Research Council of America and named to the Best Doctors of America.

Our family would like to thank the friends and family who supported us through the four years of this devastating illness. You kept us going with your love, respect, long walks, talks, cards, calls, and weekly outdoor gatherings. We would also like to thank the entire staff of Senior World for their love and care of us, the talented nurses and providers with Hospice, for their tender approach to end-of-life care, and the clinicians who took the time to listen and offer assistance when we didn’t know what to do.

George was a gentleman and a scholar, a thoughtful, kind, and sweet man, beloved by many. To know George was to love him, and as one friend said: That had everything to do with who George was. He loved his wife Colleen, his family and friends, his patients, the Tar Heels, music, butterflies and falling asleep five minutes into a movie. George was a generous civic minded and socially conscious humanitarian who always cared for and supported those around him. George adored his sons and stepson and was most proud of their generosity. Even with dementia, George continued to fall in love with Colleen over and over again. So, after 13 years of marriage, he proposed again and again throughout the last year.  He was giddy with excitement when Colleen said yes – every time. We plan to have a private celebration of George’s life in the spring, his favorite time of year, when we are likely to see our first butterfly.

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