The Rev. Zachary Johnson
- November 12, 2023
The Rev. Zachary Johnson
Santa Clarita, California
The Rev. Zachary “Zach” Johnson, formerly of Cedar Rapids, died unexpectedly on Sept. 1, 2023, at his home in Santa Clarita, CA.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023, 10:30AM, at St. Andrew Lutheran Church, 4420 Center Point Rd. NE, Cedar Rapids, IA. A festive prelude will begin at 10:00. The service will be available via livestream at: facebook.com/standrewlutherania.
Zachary William Johnson was born on June 10, 1984, to Gary L. Johnson and Sara Beth Akre, in Watford City, ND. During his childhood and adolescence, Zach called various communities home: Watford City, ND; rural Byron, MN/Hayfield, MN; Ocean Shores, WA; University Place, WA; Joice/Lake Mills, IA; and Dysart, IA. He was a 2002 graduate of Lake Mills High School, a 2007 graduate of the University of Northern Iowa, and a 2012 graduate of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.
After almost 7 years of dating, Zach finally married his high school sweetheart Kristin (Sletten) on May 13, 2006. On July 15, 2012, Zach was ordained into the ministry of Word and Sacrament in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) at Zion Lutheran Church, Dysart, IA. He was blessed to serve as pastor of Faith Lutheran Church, Evansville, MN; St. Andrew Lutheran Church, Cedar Rapids, IA; and Hill Avenue Grace Lutheran Church, Pasadena, CA. In addition to his pastoral vocation, one of the other vocations Zach most enjoyed and appreciated was his calling as Dad/Daddy. He loved being silly and having fun with the girls; and whenever possible, he was also grateful for the opportunity to take the girls to the beach, his “happy place.”
In late 2020, Zach was diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder, Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (CIDP). Despite multiple setbacks, he endured and demonstrated great courage and strength and eventually made significant progress in his CIDP journey. Around the same time of his CIDP diagnosis, he learned that he would eventually experience kidney failure. On Dec. 14, 2022, he was given new life when he and Kristin participated in a kidney paired donation. Both he and Kristin were grateful for this experience and for this new chapter in their journey together.
Zach was an avid fan of the Green Bay Packers, the Minnesota Twins, the Cedar Rapids Kernels, and the UNI Panthers. He was also a self-described choral music nerd, Star Wars geek, liturgical nerd, and a gamer. However, first and foremost, he would describe himself as a beloved child of God, broken yet made whole in Christ, forgiven and freed to share God’s love and grace with others. As a pastor with disabilities, he felt called by God to be an advocate, to help the Church and society understand the need for improved and increased accessibility, and to present a different approach to understanding the healing stories in the gospels. He spoke openly about his experience as a person with disabilities and embraced it as part of his identity, who God created him to be.
He is survived by his wife Kristin, daughters Katherine and Rosalie; parents, the Rev. Gary L. Johnson and Luann Alemao-Johnson; brother Garrett Johnson; sister Jessamyn Johnson and nephew Jonas Duffy; brother Andrew Alemao; parents-in-law James and Dagmar Sletten; sister-in-law Adrienne (Jason) Hancock; brother-in-law Ryan (Megan) Sletten; his extended family of aunts, uncles, and cousins; and his beloved dog Snickers. He was preceded in death by his mother, the Rev. Sara Beth Akre; grandparents Ezra “Pat” and Irene Johnson, C.W. “Bill” and Virginia “Ginny” Akre, Elaine Akre, and Francis and Mary Lou Costa; uncle and godfather William “Buck” Akre; and his beloved cat Izzy.
In memory of Zach, please register as an organ, eye, or tissue donor and learn more about kidney paired donation. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to the St. Andrew Lutheran Church garden ministry, the GBS-CIDP Foundation International, or to the family.