Malcolm (Mac) Kaye Johnson, 89, passed away on January 13, 2021 at his home in Hartsburg, Missouri. He was born December 8, 1931, in New Hampton, Iowa. Upon finishing high school, he entered the service in the U.S. Navy stationed in Hawaii. During this time, he acquired skills in film, photography and brewing beer which he did in the photo lab.
He was married 25 years to Patty Hake. He is survived by her and by one son, Eric (NM) and 2 daughters, Elsa Hennings (CA) and Eve Peirce (OR) and four grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents and brother. Ever the family man, he drove twice a year to the west coast to spend time with his daughters, making stops along the way to catch up with friends.
Following a stint in the Navy, he returned to Iowa and completed his bachelor of science degree in geology. Finding few job openings, he took several journalism courses, which led to employment as Editor of Iowa Conservationist magazine.
Acting on a tip, he applied for a position with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) in 1961 and was hired as Associate Editor of Missouri Conservationist magazine. In this capacity, he also supervised all MDC publications. In 1967 he became the magazine’s managing editor, and in 1985 he assumed the role of editor, a position he held until his retirement in 1989.
Under his direction, the Conservationist’s circulation grew to 180,000. The magazine achieved national acclaim, winning awards too numerous to mention. He also was instrumental in championing progressive changes, such as transitioning the magazine’s printing to recycled paper.
Mac’s influence through the Conservationist helped secure voter approval for Missouri’s groundbreaking one-eighth of one percent conservation sales tax. He was active in citizen conservation groups, including the Conservation Federation of Missouri, the Sierra Club and Ducks Unlimited. An avid canoeist, he was heavily involved behind the scenes in the successful “Stop the Meramec Dam” campaign in 1978. He also worked behind the scenes to gain congressional recognition for the Missouri River as a world-class recreational resource.
Mac’s love of the Missouri River led to duck hunting there and a long-term love affair with Labrador retrievers, including his favorite, Rufus. He loved reading and auto mechanics, both of which he was known to combine with his lifelong passion for classical music.
He was active in the Association for Conservation Information, where he and other MDC staffers came to be known as the “Missouri Mafia” on account of their dominant influence on the international group.
Mac never met a stranger and was an affectionate tease. He was unexcelled as a storyteller, and any gathering with friends and colleagues inevitably rang with his booming laugher. His sometimes-boisterous manner belied a deeply tender nature. He was steadfast friend and a trusted confidant who mentored aspiring journalists, and helped young resource professionals reach their career goals.
Mac was extremely grateful for family and expressed much appreciation for his friends and neighbors, who were unfailing sources of help and joy.
Per the family’s request, no public service will be held. His ashes will be mingled with the waters of his beloved Missouri River. In his memory, contributions can be sent to the Southern Boone County Public Library, 109 W. Main, Ashland, MO 65010 or to the Conservation Federation of Missouri, 728 W. Main, Jefferson City, MO 65101.