Williams Bay fire kills one, injures three

A fatal house fire in Williams Bay Feb. 7 claimed the life of lifelong Sally Johnson. The fire took 3-1/2 hours to get under control. A cause had not been determined at press time. (Photo by Brenda Peryea)

Sally Johnson dies in home she had lived in her entire life


By Bob Peryea


Fire tore through the Johnson family home Thursday night, Feb.7, at 83 Lackey Drive, Williams Bay.

The fire, which reportedly started around 8:30 p.m., resulted in the death of Sally Johnson, 70. Her husband, John “Al” Johnson was hospitalized with smoke inhalation and had heart bypass surgery on Sunday.

Two firefighters were also taken to the hospital suffering from smoke inhalation. They were treated and released.

As of Monday morning, no cause for the fire had yet been determined. The county Arson Investigation Task Force has completed investigations on site and will issue a report in the future.

The blaze burned for 3-1/2 hours before firefighters were able to bring the fire under control. Damage to the structure was extensive.

Due to Al Johnson’s surgery, a memorial service will be postponed until sometime in the spring. Interested persons should check the Johnson’s church’s website at http://wblc.org for updates and information for making donations to assist Al.

Remembering Sally Johnson

Sally (Thompson) Johnson was born and raised in Williams Bay.

Her father, Arvid Thompson, taught in Williams Bay schools for many years. An award was established in his name for Williams Bay scholar-athletes that is still given to one outstanding Williams Bay High School student each year.

Sally’s long-time friend, Jo Ann Hobbs, said that she “went out of her way to make things easier for other people.”

Sally Johnson worked as a nurse at Mercy Hospital for years, as well as being a nurse for Doctor Kolar in Lake Geneva for years before that.

In her youth, Sally worked as a car-hop at a restaurant in Williams Bay that has long since gone out of business.

She was a mother to Kim (Johnson) Polyock, who lives with her husband and son in Walworth. Polyock is pregnant with Sally’s first granddaughter.

“She was a loving wife and a doting grandmother” to her grandson, said Hobbs. “She was looking forward to her new granddaughter” who is due to be born in about a month. Sally told Hobbs this while the two of them were cooking for the local homeless shelter.

Sally was a charter member of Williams Bay Lutheran Church, where she sang in the choir, was on the hospitality committee and participated in services nearly every Sunday.

“She was very dedicated to the church,” said the Rev. Jeanette Strandjord of Williams Bay Lutheran. “Wherever I go in town (since this incident), if they recognize me as her pastor, I meet people who know her and tears well up in their eyes.”

The house, which burned on Thursday, was the childhood home of Sally and had been her home her entire life.

Al Johnson was in the computer field prior to his retirement. He is also an accomplished banjo player who plays professionally, as he has for years.

“He’s a fun-loving, smiley man,” Hobbs said. “He was always very supportive of everything Sally did. He has such a positive attitude and is so welcoming.

“These are horrible days for Al and Kim. I can’t even imagine what they are going through,” Hobbs said.

Because of Al Johnson’s surgery, memorial services will be held in the spring. Announcements regarding that and how to assist Al during his time of need will be available on the Williams Bay Lutheran Church website as http://wblc.org.

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