GRAND JUNCTION, Colo.—Despite not having graduated high school until he was 22 because he instead had to work, Gay Johnson became a successful entrepreneur who used his ever-present optimism and work ethic to expand his tire business. Mr. Johnson, 92, founder of Gay Johnson's Inc., died Jan. 4 in his Grand Junction home. In 1941, after graduating from a business college, he ran a booming business for a gasoline company in his home town. When World War II started, Mr. Johnson decided to strike out on his own. Borrowing $600, he bought a barn filled with used tires and began selling them, becoming skilled at recapping along the way.
He built his first gas station, which sold and repaired tires, in Grand Junction in 1946, then expanded his dealership to include tire and service stations in Cameo, Delta and Montrose, Colo. By 1965, he had established a wholesale operation in Denver and eventually opened a truck stop in Rawlins, Wyo.
Mr. Johnson sold his company to his children in 1977, began ranching and later went on to farming before selling that business venture in 1994.
Survivors include his son, Bert, president of Gay Johnson's Inc., daughter, Gaynell Colaric, vice president and corporate secretary, and four grandchildren.