Aloha community remembers Ryan Johnson
Ryan Lee Johnson's father looked out into a sea of faces lit by flickering candles Saturday and knew his family was not alone in its grief.
'He was deeply loved, and it shows,' a tearful Tim Davis told members of the community who gathered in the Aloha High School football stadium. The vigil was held to remember the charismatic 22-year-old, who was gunned down a few blocks away from his alma mater.
Ryan was rebuilding his life for his 3-year-old son at the time it was cut short.
Learning what the 2008 Aloha High School graduate meant to those who knew him and sharing memories of how his million-watt smile and words of wisdom brightened others' days, was a source of comfort for his close-knit family.
'It was very, very powerful, very emotional, to know my son touched so many people in this community,' Tim Davis said Tuesday, as he sat in the living room of the family's home on Southwest 187th Place. 'Ryan was in the prime of his life and had so much to offer, so many people to love. I was amazed by the never-ending love spilling out of the community. It was overwhelming.'
Tim's wife, Melissa Davis, nodded in agreement. 'It was amazing,' she said. 'I never knew how many people loved us and cared about us. My first thought after everything happened was I wanted to leave here and get away.'
Those thoughts were quickly replaced with a sense of belonging, Ryan's step-mother said. In the days following the Jan. 26 shooting outside Bales Thriftway in Aloha, Ryan's family has been humbled by the show of support it has received from friends, neighbors, Thriftway employees, members of the AHS Warriors' family and strangers. People immediately began knocking on the door, bringing meals, mementos, photographs, offers of support and connections to aid in the difficult task of planning Saturday's memorial service for Ryan.
'People here in Aloha really care,' Tim Davis said. 'They were so hurt and confused, too. We're all one out here. We're so thankful for everything everyone is doing. We feel blessed.'
Building a life
Loved ones, former coaches and friends say they want Ryan to be remembered for the way he embraced life and as a proud, young father, who was driven to build the best life possible for his 3-year-old son. He lovingly called his son his best friend on several Facebook posts.
'Ryan aspired to be a firefighter and paramedic,' said Tom Jones, Ryan's grandfather and Melissa Davis' father. 'He wanted to help people and thought that would be his best opportunity to provide a good life for himself and his son.
'He hoped to be married, carry on and have a good, strong family life.'
Ryan attended Portland Community College's Rock Creek campus and was looking into volunteer opportunities with the fire service, while also working at the Best Buy store on Cascade Avenue.
The night before he was killed, his step-mother remembers a conversation with Ryan. 'He stood in our doorway and said, 'I'm going full speed on school. I want to get my degree, get my job and get into my career. I'm really going to step on it.' He was so excited,' she recalled.
His father said Ryan was driven by his love for his son.
'He fought for his son,' Tim Davis said. 'Seeing his son was his primary goal. He was doing the right thing - being a responsible dad. He loved his boy with all his heart.'
'A bright light'
Family was important to Ryan, his father added. Whether it was fishing on Olallie Lake, challenging his 19-year-old brother Austin Davis to a game of Modern Warfare III or attending every one of his 16-year-old brother Calvin Davis' football games, Ryan made the most of every moment.
His energy was contagious, his grandfather said.
'He touched people's hearts,' Tom Jones added. 'He was one of those personalities you would never forget.'
And, his smile was something else.
'Ryan was a bright light,' Melissa Davis said. 'He glowed. His smile was so big and bright and so full of joy.'
'He was always full of jokes and laughter,' added Emily Jones, Ryan's cousin. 'At the same time, he had a way about him that would make you cheer up. He knew exactly what to say to make you feel better.'
Fellow Aloha alum Adam Cloutier said Ryan 'had a vibe about him. You could just tell he was happy to be alive. He was genuine and one of those people you meet that you really look forward to getting to know.'
Ryan left a lasting impression at Aloha High School, where he transferred in his sophomore year from Gresham.
'Ryan was a remarkable individual,' said Bill Volk, one of his former teachers and track coach. 'He will be missed. His death is a tragic loss to our community.'
During his time at Aloha, Ryan made a name for himself as a promising wrestler and natural athlete.
As a senior, he was a seventh-place finisher at 189 pounds in the 2008 state tournament. At that time, he was Aloha's first state place winner since 2000. That same year, he finished second in the Metro League District Tournament at 189 pounds.
Ryan was also a hurdler and relay team sprinter for Aloha. He was fifth in the Metro district high hurdles as a senior. Volk said his positive attitude and the passion he brought every day helped build the school's program.
He also played safety and running back on the Warriors' football team.
'In everything, Ryan had a lot of heart and determination,' said Stuart Kearsley, Ryan's wrestling coach and Spanish teacher. 'He was dedicated.'
A memorial fund has been set up under Ryan Lee Johnson's name. Donations can be made at any U.S. Bank branch. A collection jar is also set up at the Starbucks counter inside the Bales Thriftway in Aloha, the same store where Ryan was killed.