First Responders 04

Gene L. Johnsen

October 15, 1939 ~ July 20, 2020 (age 80)

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Gene Lauritz Johnsen, age 80 of Milbank, passed away on July 20, 2020, at his residence. Services will be held on Monday, July 27, 2020, at 11:00 a.m. at American Lutheran Church in Milbank.  Rev. Justin Neugebauer will officiate and burial with military honors will be in the Milbank City Cemetery.  Visitation will be held on Sunday, July 26, at American Lutheran Church from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.  Visitation will continue on Monday, one hour prior to the service. Military honors will be provided by: American Legion Birch-Miller Post #9, V.F.W. Grant County Post #3486, V.V.A. Northeast SD Chapter #1054, and D.A.V. Chapter #19. 

While maintaining social distancing guidelines, we are now able to gather for visitations and services. The use of face masks by attendees is recommended, and we will continue taking the necessary steps to keep our facility clean. For those who prefer or require continued precautions, webcasting and/or livestreaming is available in most situations.

Gene Lauritz Johnsen was born on October 15, 1939, in Browns Valley, MN. He was the son of Lauritz and Phyllis (Howell) Johnsen.  Gene grew up on the family farm near Corona, SD. In high school, Gene participated in track, FFA, and was in the class play. He graduated from Wilmot High School with the Class of 1957.

Gene served in the United States Marine Corps from 1958 until 1962.  He was united in marriage with Mary Ann Johnson in 1960. Following his honorable discharge, Gene and Mary moved to Huron, SD.  Gene worked for a television sales store until 1965.  They moved to Milbank, SD, in July of 1965, and Gene opened an electronics business, Gene’s Radio and TV.  The business was later renamed Milbank Communications, an authorized Motorola Two-Way Radio Sales and Service Center.  Gene operated the business until he sold it in 2007. In Huron they established a family with the birth of three children: Van, Carie and Dawn. Over the years the family enjoyed camping, snowmobiling, softball, hunting, and evenings at the trap range. Together they picked rock off the land and built a house east of Milbank. 

Gene married Karen Marie (Tesch) Johnson on July 15, 1986. After marrying Karen, Gene entered a new chapter of parenting with T.J. and Ben. Gene and Karen loved to fish, camp, travel, and ride ATV’s.  They were regulars at the local fishing holes and strong competitors in the tournaments. They competed in the Master Walleye Circuit from 1989 – 2001, placing in 1997 and 2001.  They found great pleasure in remodeling and expanding their home in Lakeview addition.  After Gene’s retirement, they enjoyed a three-month trip to Alaska and a month-long trip through New England and Prince Edward Island, Canada.  They began wintering in Apache Junction, AZ, in 2009.  Karen passed away on April 6, 2015.

Gene was a faithful and dedicated 29-year member of Milbank Fire and Rescue.  He served as Fire Chief from 1986 – 1994.  He was a state certified fire instructor and attended numerous state and district fire schools and trainings.  He was instrumental in upgrading equipment, building a new fire station in 1993, and developing Milbank Fire and Rescue Truck and Squad.  He served the South Dakota State Fire Association as Director of the Northeast District from 1984 – 1993.

Gene was certified as an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician).  He served several terms as Grant County Coroner. He was a member of the Whetstone Valley Sportsman and Conservation Club and taught Hunter Safety courses for 28 years, from    1976 – 2004. He was named Instructor of the Year for Region 4 Hunter Safety by the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks in 1998.

Gene was honored as Volunteer of the Year from the Milbank Chamber of Commerce two years in a row, 1993 and 1994.

On August 1, 2019, Gene was united in marriage with Rosann Olga (Simpson) Lichtsinn. Gene and Rosann enjoyed riding their motorcycles (trikes) on both long and short trips.  They enjoyed camping, geocaching, playing pool, and visiting family members. Most importantly, they treasured the time they were given together.

Gene will be remembered for his love for his family, his amazing work ethic, his civic leadership and volunteerism, his positive look on life, and his loyalty to his friends.

Cherishing his memory are his wife, Rosann of Milbank, SD; children: Van (Georgia) Johnsen of Amery, WI; Carie Johnsen of Augusta, ME; step-sons with Karen: Thomas “TJ” Johnson of Aberdeen, SD; and Ben (Heather) Johnson of Pine Island, MN; step-children with Rosann: Sara Goche of Watertown, SD; Kelly (Corey) VanHorn of Morris, MN; Joy (Paul) Bjordahl of Sioux Falls, SD; Grant Lichtsinn of Duluth, MN; and Dillon Lichtsinn of Brandon, SD; five grandchildren; 15 step-grandchildren; 11 great-grandchildren; siblings: Judy (Gene) Frerichs of Milbank, SD; Duane (Sherry) Johnsen of Vancouver, WA; and Jerry (Wanda) Johnsen of Reno, NV.  Gene was preceded in death by his parents: Lauritz and Phyllis Johnsen; daughter, Dawn Johnsen; step-granddaughter, Alora Rea Breault; wife, Karen Johnsen; and brother, Dale Johnsen.

Casket bearers will be: Jesse Johnsen, Eric Johnsen, Porter Johnson, Evan Johnson, Logan Johnson, Justin Killam, Mike Sageir, Michael Breault, Ashley Johnsen Roecker, Emilee Johnson, and Lucy Johnson. 

Honorary bearers will be Harvey Minor, past and present members of the Milbank Fire and Rescue Department, and South Dakota Northeast District Fire Association.

Gene's family suggests memorials be given to Milbank Fire and Rescue Department, P.O. Box 625, Milbank, SD 57252.


To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Gene L. Johnsen, please visit our floral store.


July 26, 2020

5:00 PM to 7:00 PM
American Lutheran Church
401 South Flynn Drive
Milbank, SD 57252

Funeral Service
July 27, 2020

11:00 AM
American Lutheran Church (Milbank)

Graveside Service
July 27, 2020

11:45 AM
Milbank City Cemetery
Highway 12
Milbank, SD 57252

Military Honors
July 27, 2020

12:00 PM
Milbank City Cemetery
Highway 12
Milbank, SD 57252


Milbank Fire and Rescue Department
PO Box 625, Milbank SD 57252
Tel: 1-605-880-9071

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