Johnny Gerald Straat
1964 ~ 2017
Mr. Johnny Gerald Straat of Raymond passed away on Sunday, September 10, 2017 at the age of 53 years.
March 9, 1964 Johnny Gerald Straat entered the world, the second child of his family, much to the delight of his parents John and Marie, and to the surprise of his older brother, me, Paul. Up until that point life had been serene perfection. Now this unbelievably active and enthusiastic little boy commanded the spotlight with dancing deep blue eyes, a shock of white hair and a permanent radiant smile which showed how incredibly pleased he was to have arrived. The quiet gentle soul everyone knew as an adult always belied the restless, curious youth that was. Barely nine months old he was running, not walking, everywhere those tiny legs could carry him. At this point he was still small enough to be able to run right under the kitchen table at full speed. Very soon a couple more inches of growth would result in nasty goose-egg-shaped reminders that cruising speed either had to be drastically reduced, or an alternate route would have to be found through the jungle of toys that had become the norm in our farmhouse kitchen.
This level of enthusiasm was carried over to practically every physical activity Johnny engaged in during his youth. He especially adored watching the Kung Fu series on tv starring David Carradine, carefully studying his every move. After being riveted to the screen for each episode he would immediately go upstairs to his bedroom to practice. That way he could re-enact the whole routine the next day at school with the other boys. Me along with his legions of fans, would watch and cheer from a safe distance in the sidelines as "Grasshopper" took out all the bad guys. One night when Mom was putting us to bed and helping us into our jammies, she was horrified to see that Johnny was covered in bruises from head to toe from his career as the elementary school unofficial Kung Fu champion.
After outgrowing Kung Fu, Johnny asked for a set of Weider resistance springs from Woolco that came with a picture of Mr. Universe Arnold Schwarzenegger on the box. In his room, he would follow the prescribed workouts to the letter, even doing the poses for our admiring young cousins from Belgium, then he'd come downstairs in just his gym shorts all pumped up and sweaty to casually preen for the entire family. Which of course we all loved, especially Mom.
His next milestone was when he got his first dirt bike, allegedly to help with chasing the cows in for their nightly milking, as well as giving unprecedented access to the fields and ditches around the farm, where he would practice flying jumps at breakneck speeds for hours on end. His signature stunt was to come flying out of the ditch that was alongside the approach to the farmhouse, clear the entire driveway, and land softly on his back wheel in the ditch sloping down the opposite side. During this phase Evel Knievel had the honor of being the new role model, and Johnny made sure his stunts were picture perfect before Mom witnessed any of them. With the pictures to prove it, and despite a flawless execution, I'm sure the poor woman held her breath and prayed silently every time that she was not witnessing the demise of her second-born son.
With an obvious love for growing up on the farm, it was only natural that Johnny would be driving tractors and farm equipment before he was even legal for the road. And he did it well. Tractors, bobcats, front end loaders, you name it, anything with a motor that bristled with levers he would just jump on and instinctively he could make it twirl like a ballerina. Farming and all the technical aspects of equipment was all that really interested him. And after growing up that's what he did, he worked on the family farm ‘til the end. His newest toy was a recently purchased street bike.
To mourn his passing, he leaves behind his two beautiful children, Joshua Knutson and Tori Straat; Tori's mother, Rachel in Belgium; brothers, Paul (Jamey), David (Veronique), Kelly (Shalayne), Matthew (Georgia) and Nicholas (Sarah); Matthew and Nicholas’ mom Karleen Tolsdorf Straat; nieces and nephews, Jason, David, Marie-Louise, Leah, Luke, Lexi, Talon, Beau, and Flynn. He also leaves behind a huge extended family retinue of cousins, aunts and uncles back in Belgium which, along with friends of the family, have been an amazing support throughout the battle he fought against the lung cancer which took him from us this past September 10th, plus his friends and acquaintances from school, and the people he met through farming.
He was pre-deceased by his father, John just this year in February, his mother Mya (Marie) back in 1981, and Josh's mom back in 2003.
Having lost his mother when he was young, Johnny's number one worry was leaving behind his children, in particular, his young underage daughter.
In lieu of any flowers or tributes he could best be honored by making a donation to the charity of one's choice, especially anything in support of children that may be at a disadvantage in life for not having one or both parents.
A Celebration of Johnny's Life will be announced by the family at a later date.