Darryl Dean Johnson was born on June 23, 1960 to Virginia and Kemp Johnson Sr. in
Des Moines, IA. He, along with his four siblings, grew up on 12th Street where he
continued to live with his mother for 45 years.
Dean was a gifted athlete in both baseball and basketball. But it was his basketball
talents that earned him respect in his neighborhood and scholarships to play
collegiately. By the age of 12, Dean became a local legend for his poster style dunks he
showcased to win the first slam dunk contest held at Good Park in 1972. He continued
to excel in basketball at Des Moines Technical High School where he graduated in
After graduating from Tech, he played basketball at Indian Hills Community College
where he earned an Associate of Arts. He then attended the University of Arkansas
Pine Bluff, playing both basketball and baseball and graduating in 1984 with a Bachelor
of Science in Health and Exercise Science.
Dean returned to Des Moines after college and spent his career as a probations and
corrections officer for nearly 20 years. At the same time, he had a long career as an
assistant varsity basketball coach at Dowling Catholic High School and North High
School. At North, he was known as “Coach J”. Over the years he equipped many young
men with the tools to play the sport, but more importantly, he mentored them and
offered them wisdom to succeed in life. Dean didn’t have children, but he was a father
to many and he loved all of his “boys” as his own.
Dean was a loving son, brother, uncle, cousin, and friend. He cared deeply for people,
but no one more so than his mother, Virginia. He was her baby and it was rare to see
one without the other being close by. They lived together, traveled together, and
genuinely enjoyed each other’s company. Dean was playful and witty. At family
gatherings he often kept everyone entertained from his jokes and by the amount of food
he could put away in one sitting.
In his spare time, he enjoyed watching sports, cooking, and traveling. He was a skilled
landscaper—his admirers always became clients. At one time, he maintained the lawns
of nearly an entire neighborhood in Clive. He always had his nose in a book, but
preferred ones written by James Patterson, his favorite author.
Dean passed away on Tuesday, October 10, 2019 at the age of 59.
Preceding him in death were his parents, Kemp Johnson Sr. and Virginia Johnson; his
brother, Kenneth Johnson; and his nephew, Jerome Johnson-Reid.
Left to cherish his memories are his siblings, Delores Lankford, Kemp Johnson Jr.,
(Terri), Kimberly Jones (Erwin Sr.); his nieces and nephews, Alonzo Smith (Kia), Larissa
Reid, Traci Gross (Daniel), Andrea, Erin, and Erwin “Drew” Jones II, Simone Williams;
Great nieces and nephews, Alonzo, Amya, and Amari Smith, Caden Williams, Jamari
Clarkson, Isaiah and Harper Gross, and a host of other relatives and friends.
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