Nicholas “Nick” Johnson — a son, a brother, a friend and a fearless water polo player — died Monday, March 24, 2014, doing what he loved: swimming. He was 19.
Nick was born May 16, 1994, in Birmingham, Alabama, the eldest child of Berkeley “Augie” Johnson and Dr. Karen Johnson. His family lived in San Diego for his first four years, and moved to Santa Barbara in 1998.
He attended Montecito Union, Santa Barbara Junior High and Santa Barbara High schools, where he enjoyed flag football, basketball, baseball, soccer, karate and running. Once he was introduced to Junior Lifeguards and water polo in middle school, he was hooked on water sports and found his true home. He rose to be captain of the Santa Barbara Aquatics club water polo team and captain of Santa Barbara High School’s varsity water polo team.
His work ethic earned him First Team All-Channel League honors, Academic water polo All-American honors, a spot on the regional Junior U.S. Olympic development team and the Santa Barbara High School Schutte Award honoring “the male athlete who best exemplifies the Santa Barbara Dons Tradition for hard work and dedication.”
Nick earned a roster spot at UC Santa Barbara as a utility player for the Gauchos. He knew that to play at the highest Division I level, he could not do it by overpowering larger players; he would have to outwork them. This meant pushing himself harder and farther than anyone else on the team, and he trained both on and off the water every opportunity he had.
Nick is survived by his parents, Karen and Berkeley Johnson; brothers Samuel and Cooper; sister Sophie; grandparents Phoebe Nichols, Berkeley Johnson, Harley and Ute Jensen, and Dick Adam; 15 aunts and uncles; and 13 adoring cousins.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 6, 2013, at the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara, 1535 Santa Barbara Street.
Friends and family will always remember Nick for his big smile and even bigger heart.
In light of the special role that public education and water sports played in Nick’s life, memorial funds have been set up at Santa Barbara High School and UCSB in his honor.
Donations to the Santa Barbara High aquatics program can be made to the SBHS Aquatics Booster Club-Nick Johnson Memorial Fund, c/o Kelsie Hendrix, treasurer, 2733 Williams Way, Santa Barbara 93105. Click here to make an online donation.
Donations to the UCSB water polo program can be made to the UCSB Foundation-Nick Johnson Memorial Fund, c/o Gifts Administration, University of California Santa Barbara 93106-1130, or by calling 805.893.2112. Click here to make an online donation, and navigate to the “Nick Johnson Memorial Fund” in the drop-down box.