Former Taylorsville High theater teacher remembered for his 30 years of service

Apr 11, 2023, 6:05 PM | Updated: Apr 13, 2023, 7:57 am

TAYLORSVILLE, Utah — A legendary high school theater teacher is being remembered for his impact on thousands of kids over 30 years.

Russell Johnson, 75, died Easter morning.

On Tuesday, family and former students gathered at Taylorsville High School to talk to KSL TV in the J. Russell Johnson Theater, which was named after Johnson when he retired in 2002.

“It’s weird to be in this space without him,” said an emotional Becky Pickle, who graduated in 1996. “I just think about how much influence he had, how many lives were changed in this theater, and the very safe space that he created for a lot of kids that didn’t have a safe space elsewhere.”

Sarah Schaugaard, the oldest of Johnson’s five kids, said theater was her father’s life.

“As I walked in the theater here, the little theater, just brought back so many emotions because this is where he loved to be.”

Schaugaard said having her father die Easter morning was a tender time.

“For our family, it was a special day to remember him. The thought of being able to be with him again because we celebrate Easter and because of our Savior.”

Cameron Garner, the current theater director at Taylorsville High, said Johnson’s legacy still lives on in everything that they do on stage.

“He was here for a long time and started some amazing traditions that are still part of the Taylorsville theater community,” he said. “He brought a lot of the joy of storytelling.”

Russell Johnson will be laid to rest at 11 a.m. on Saturday, April 15, at 235 E. Sego Lilly Drive in Sandy.

Russell Johnson, the former theater teacher at Taylorsville High School, pictured with a group of actors. Russell Johnson, the former theater teacher at Taylorsville High School, pictured with one of his actors.

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Former Taylorsville High theater teacher remembered for his 30 years of service