Angela Johnson

In Loving Memory of Chris Johnson - husband, father, journalist and friend

Fundraising for The James Bulger Memorial Trust.
raised of £2,000 target
In memory of Chris Johnson
The James Bulger Memorial Trust.

Verified by JustGiving

RCN 1141125
We offer FREE holidays/respite breaks to deserving children and their families


Our dear dad Chris Johnson was a heavyweight of journalism and, as his children, we knew without ever previously discussing such an event - because we believed a man of his strength would live forever - that when the unthinkable time came we would be inundated with messages from those he had worked with and those Chris had made a difference in the lives of. To say there are hundreds of people mourning the death of "CJ" is not a boast but a fact, given the beautiful tributes we have already seen flooding in over the past few days and we know there will be many more for weeks and years to come. 

For anyone who isn't aware, Chris sadly passed away on the night of Thursday 25th June 2020, aged 68. His final moments were reassuringly peaceful and he was surrounded by his loving family while “On Days Like These” by Matt Monro (the opening credits theme song from Chris’ favourite film, 'The Italian Job') played to bring comfort to Chris and us all. Some may not know that Chris died just three brief months after being diagnosed in March with an aggressive stage 4 cancer of the oesophagus which had already spread to patches on his liver. “Am I working to a deadline?” Chris joked to his family upon receiving the news that he had an average of 2-6 months left to live. Typical of Chris, he had met adversity with grace and humour and tolerated the pain - both physical and mental - with such strength and resilience we were, and continue to be, in awe of him.

The three short but extremely precious final months of Chris' life coincided with UK lockdown. This made Dad's diagnosis doubly tough to bear as Dad was firstly so deeply moved to anger by the blunders being made in government that were costing the lives of thousands. On top of his desire to scream at the injustice happening to other ordinary people beyond himself, secondly, our naturally gregarious and generous Chris was unable to meet anyone in person to share his deeply worrying news and thus was denied the opportunity to gain physical support from his extended family, closest friends and colleagues. Chris of course still received it via numerous well wishing phone calls and messages, which in turn were enough to give him all the courage he needed. After all, Chris valued words above all else. We, as his immediate family, became 'one household' after a fortnight's period in isolation to ensure we would not endanger Dad's life further before joining him in his Garston flat to care for and support him on each step of the journey he faced with chemotherapy. Sadly, after just two rounds of chemo the CT scan results showed the drugs had had no effect on slowing the growth of the tumour. His bravery throughout his ordeal was unsurprising to us given the fierce and personal battles he had fought on behalf of so many others during his time as a leading light in journalism over a career spanning 50 years. Chris was a man so energetic, so full of fun and joy for life. Unfortunately, Chris was stricken with a cancer that seemingly fed off the immense energy and passion Chris held deep within him and, as such, it consumed him all the more quickly. Tragically, while we were all still adjusting to the 'new normal' that was Chris' devastatingly short life expectancy, we were prevented from fulfilling Chris' final wish of returning to his beloved Italy one last time - both countries being in strict lockdown simply couldn't allow it. CJ had adored Italy, learning and becoming fluent in the Italian language in his 50s, and delighted in visiting often throughout his life and making friends of pen pals he practiced his vocabulary on. Contemplating his achievements and holidays spent travelling and visiting all over Italy with his family and late wife Christine (who sadly passed in February 2017) and, latterly, his new partner Gaynor, was enough for Chris to feel content as he had taken every chance to explore Italy while he was fit and well. 

Despite lockdown, we were determined to give our Dad some positive goals and memories to enjoy. We managed to take him on a 5 night break in the Peak District - along with his much adored 2-year-old grandson, Luther - to an isolated cottage where we were safe and the outside world couldn't touch us. Upon our return, as restrictions were beginning to lift in mid-June, we threw a socially distanced outdoor 68th birthday for him, with some extended family, friends and former colleagues able to at long last give him their love and support from a 2m distance. Yet, unknown to us at the time, this was less than a fortnight before we were to lose him. Chris and all his family were unwilling to believe he was going to be taken without a proper chance - more time - to fight back. Despite chemotherapy having had zero effect on slowing his tumour growth, Chris was still insisting on face-to-face meetings with his doctors to the last, ensuring he and they had explored all avenues of online research in the hope a 'wonder drug' might be on the horizon to treat his aggressive type of stage 4 adenocarcinoma (located at the Gastro-Oesophageal Junction where the oesophagus meets the opening to the stomach). Sadly, it was not meant to be and the doctors had no such miracle cure of the like Chris, Andy and Angela had all written countless stories about for other 'ordinary' people in newspapers and magazines over the years. 

Chris valued above all else the chance to impart wisdom to his fellow humans throughout his role as a journalist and as a husband, father and friend. His unique ability to teach real life lessons to his trainee reporters is now legend. As his two children, Angela and Andrew, we both could not fail to be inspired by the man in our lives who was so deeply well respected in his community and across Liverpool. It is only now in the tragic loss of Chris that so many of his loyal peers, colleagues and followers in his footsteps have been offering messages of the inspiration he gave to them in their careers and life in general, too. Nicknamed “Mr Liverpool”, Chris was a photographer, a journalist, a TV producer and a family man. He is survived by two children and his three beloved grandchildren. His love for words was passed on and will continue to be passed down through the generations of his family and of the 'pupils' he led in journalism. In his untimely death, we received yet another lesson in unwavering determination not to let the pain 'beat him' spiritually even if physically it was at times more than he could bear.

Despite the bleak outlook, Dad remained strong and turned to his faith. As a lifelong Catholic who had started out working as a photographer for The Catholic Pictorial, Chris spoke with the Auxiliary Bishop of Liverpool Tom Williams who kindly visited him at home in his final days. Receiving nourishment to his spirit through the 'Anointing Of The Sick' from Rt Reverend Williams went some way to making amends for being robbed of Chris' enjoyment of food (the location of his cancer had impaired his ability to swallow anything but liquid). Bishop Tom offering him strength from God seemed to revive Chris for a good 24 hours. It was perhaps the cruellest nature of this disease that meant Dad had been forced to avoid his beloved glasses of Italian red wine and nightcaps by way of 'The Famous Grouse' as they exacerbated the tumour site. Yet, just two days before Chris passed away, he was awake and watching The Best Of Tommy Cooper and Morecambe and Wise on DVD, having already hoovered up his Fawlty Towers boxset for the umpteenth time in the weeks prior. Still full of fun, and wanting to share the moment, Dad insisted on being pictured raising what was to be his final dram of 'the water of life' - toasting to his friends via social media as a final parting shot of gratitude and joy. In true CJ fashion! It's a photo that we can all treasure. A testament to his desire to enjoy all the things he loved most in life, right to the end.

This page is intended to be a place where you can pay tribute to CJ and, given the Covid 19 restrictions flowers are not to be allowed at the Chapel of Rest or the cemetery, it's a fundraising page for a cause close to Chris' heart. While we confirm details of the likely limited funeral service we would like to give his family, friends and peers a chance to write a tribute and pay their respects - quite literally, as CJ would instruct 'put your money where your mouth is' - and donate to the extremely worthy cause Chris dedicated so much of his time and energy to as both Chairman and Trustee of The James Bulger Memorial Trust He was immensely proud of his 25 year working relationship and strong friendship with James' mother, Denise Fergus, and we know he would want to raise a big chunk of cash in his memory. Thank you for reading and if you can spare even the smallest amount, we and the children who'll benefit, will be eternally grateful.

We'll leave you with some words of wisdom Dad carried with him throughout his life journey. "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans" - John Lennon. Dad, we're so glad we became part of your plans. Thank you for sharing your life and your own words of wisdom with us. Chris' parting message was, 'How's this for an idea? Even though I'll be gone, have fun." We will, Pops, we promise. 

With love and thanks,

Angela and Andy, and all the Johnsons xxx

About the charity

The James Bulger Memorial Trust.

Verified by JustGiving

RCN 1141125
The James Bulger Memorial Trust offers a holiday home for FREE holidays/respite breaks for a child and their family who have gone through one or more of the following, Bereavement, Bullying, Victim/Hate crime, Care for a parent or sibling, Have done a good deed in their school or local community.

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