Johnson, Henry Arna

Johnson, Henry Arna

Male 1919 - 2013  (93 years)

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  • Name Johnson, Henry Arna  [1
    Born 26 Mar 1919  Chicago, Cook, Illinois, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    Gender Male 
    Died 22 Feb 2013  Bonita Springs, Lee, Florida, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    Person ID I518  My Genealogy
    Last Modified 29 Jan 2018 

    Family 1 Living 
    Last Modified 29 Jan 2018 
    Family ID F223  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family 2 (Johnson), Eleanore 
    Married Sep 1940  Chicago, Cook, Illinois, USA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Last Modified 29 Jan 2018 
    Family ID F317  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 26 Mar 1919 - Chicago, Cook, Illinois, USA Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsMarried - Sep 1940 - Chicago, Cook, Illinois, USA Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 22 Feb 2013 - Bonita Springs, Lee, Florida, USA Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 

  • Photos
    Henry Johnson
    Henry Johnson

  • Notes 
    • Henry A. 'Hank' Johnson, former CEO of Spiegel, 1919-2013
      March 21, 2013|By Bob Goldsborough, Special to the Chicago Tribune

      "Hank was a great leader and proselytizer for the vision he had for the company, and he set a tremendous view of what this company was going to be," said Ted Spiegel, a retired Spiegel executive. "And everybody believed him because he knew how to sell the future to the organization."

      Mr. Johnson, 93, died of complications from Parkinson's disease Friday, Feb. 22, in a Bonita Springs, Fla., hospice center, said Pamela Szponer, his stepdaughter. A longtime Chicago-area resident, he lived in Downers Grove for 10 years until moving to Bonita Springs in 1996, she said.

      Born in Chicago, Mr. Johnson grew up in Park Ridge and graduated in 1937 from Maine Township High School, where he swept floors to help support his family. His father had left the family during the Depression, and Mr. Johnson's mother took in laundry.

      Mr. Johnson spent his entire career in the catalog industry, beginning as an office worker at Montgomery Ward in 1940. He received a bachelor's degree from Northwestern University's evening program and later received a master's of business administration from the University of Chicago.

      Mr. Johnson left Montgomery Ward to serve in the Army Air Forces during World War II, flying 23 missions.

      After the war he rejoined Ward's as an assistant furniture buyer. In the late 1940s he joined Chicago mail-order firm Aldens as a furniture buyer and later became executive vice president of merchandising.

      In 1974, Mr. Johnson took a job as president of Family Fashions by Avon, moving from Chicago to Newport News, Va. He returned to Chicago two years later when Spiegel's owner at the time, Beneficial Corp., tapped him to revitalize the company, which was on the brink of insolvency.

      Mr. Johnson immediately shifted Spiegel's strategy upmarket, targeting the growing number of working women.

      "Hank's view was that this was a new world and that women were going to have a place in the workplace, so that meant that time was going to be more of a premium than money, and that convenience was going to be a big aspect of it," said Karl Steigerwald, retired Spiegel vice president of marketing.

      Mr. Johnson proceeded to close all 131 of Spiegel's catalog order stores, which made up about 40 percent of the company's business, relying solely on orders through toll-free phone numbers, Steigerwald said.

      Mr. Johnson also upgraded the apparel that Spiegel offered and jettisoned some products the company had sold, such as automobile tires. Spiegel's clothing line had been on par with that of Montgomery Ward, but under Mr. Johnson, the company began competing with Lord & Taylor and large department stores, Steigerwald said.

      Mr. Johnson also started charging for the company's catalogs.

      "He said, 'This is going to be a fashion resource as well as a selling device. It's going to be a coffee-table book,'" Steigerwald said.

      The strategy took several years to take shape, but once it did, Spiegel thrived. At one point, company sales increased 25 to 30 percent a year.

      Mr. Johnson was in charge when Beneficial sold Spiegel in 1982 to German catalog firm Otto Versand. He also oversaw Spiegel's headquarters relocation from Chicago's South Side to Oak Brook in 1977.

      Mr. Johnson made the decision in 1983 to spend $20 million to renovate Spiegel's order-processing plant on 35th Street in the South Side's Back of the Yards area instead of moving the operation to the Sun Belt, as the company had been considering.

      After retiring from Spiegel in 1986, Mr. Johnson founded Critic's Choice Video, a video catalog company. The company later was sold to Playboy.

      Outside of work, Mr. Johnson spent four years as the Boy Scouts of America's Chicago Area Council president. He also served on President Ronald Reagan's private-sector survey on cost control and was involved in the 1984 Olympics, receiving the U.S. Olympic Committee's Spirit of America award.

      Survivors also include his wife, Darlene; a daughter, Nancy Reif; two sons, Martin and Roy; a stepson, R. James Werner; another stepdaughter, Kristine Hunt; a brother, Roy; a sister, Carol Oswald; nine grandsons; and six great-granddaughters.

      A celebration of Mr. Johnson's life will be held Sunday in Bonita Springs. A memorial service is scheduled for Aug. 10 in Galena.

  • Sources 
    1. [S897] Cook County, Illinois Birth Index, 1916-1935,, (Name: Online publication - Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2008.Original data - Cook County Clerk, comp. Cook County Clerk Genealogy Records. Cook County Clerk’s Office, Chicago, IL: Cook County Clerk, 2008.Original data: Cook County Clerk, comp. Co;).
      birth date: 26 Mar 1919
      birth place: Chicago, Cook, Illinois, USA
      Name: Henry Arna Johnson

    2. [S898] Obituary - Henry Johnson.