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Charlotte and Ken Johnson

Charlotte and Ken Johnson have lived most of their lives in rural Aitkin County, on Little Pine Lake in the southwest corner or our region. They raised their son, Mark, here, and Ken enjoyed a successful career in engineering.

Ken’s ties to the Northland Foundation were planted well before Northland even existed. He made two key work connections that grew into close friendships. One was with Tom Renier (then at ARDC) and other with the late Mike Zilverberg, a County Commissioner.

As the Northland Foundation was being established in 1986, Ken’s friend Mike sat on its first Board, which hired its first President—none other than Tom.

When he himself became a member of the Board of Trustees (2001-2011), Ken was a steady, articulate, and heartfelt voice on the Board. His love for northeastern Minnesota was, and is, evident in his wise words, often delivered with a gentle chuckle.

Reflecting on his service, he said, “Being on the Board was one of the most pleasurable parts of my life, committing resources to worthy causes and funding organizations that provide public good.”

Ken was among the first Emeritus Trustee Group members, and he and Charlotte have continued to attend Northland gatherings. They share that it felt natural to make a legacy gift commitment. “During my time on the Board, I helped decide where we should spend others’ money. Now spring forward a few years, and Charlotte and I have named Northland as a beneficiary of our estate,” Ken explained.

“At some point in the future, persons we do not even know will sit at a Northland Board meeting and decide where our contribution can make a difference in the lives of others. Knowing this is a great feeling!”

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