A longtime Colorado Springs couple's love for the city will be remembered in millions of ways.
Their bequest of $2 million will be split among schools, libraries, the future Hybl Sports Medicine and Performance Center, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum and other projects intended to revitalize the community, particularly downtown.
Milton Johnson, a pharmacist and his wife, Darlene, an elementary school teacher, moved to Colorado Springs in the late 1950s from Nebraska and grew to love everything about the town, their nephew Brian Werner said Friday at a celebration of their donation.
"General Palmer, when he envisioned the wide boulevards and the green spaces and the parks, that's exactly what my aunt and uncle came to appreciate about this town," Werner said.
Milton Johnson served as an Army medical technician in World War II before becoming a pharmacist. In Colorado Springs, he worked as a pharmacist at the Broadmoor for 25 years full-time and 15 years after that on an as-needed basis, Werner said. Before his evening shift at the Broadmoor started, Johnson would often study investing at the library, he said. While his investing paid off, the couple never lived lavishly, Werner said.
Milton Johnson died in 2006 at 82 and his wife in 2019 at 89, according to their obituaries.
In Darlene Johnson's later years, she got excited about the City for Champions project, which includes the new Olympic Museum and downtown sports venues. She would often set aside news stories about downtown projects to share with Werner, he said.
She decided to further three City for Champions projects with $400,000 each in the bequest -- the museum, the sports center at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs and the authority that oversees the new Robson Arena at Colorado College and the downtown multi-use stadium.
Darlene Johnson spent 19 years teaching in Colorado Springs School District 11 and left it $330,000 for supplies, computers and scholarships. The bequest came at a good time for the district as it adjusts to the coronavirus pandemic, D-11 Superintendent Michael Thomas said.
"Technology is going to be key for our students," Thomas said.
The Johnsons also left $100,000 to the city for downtown parks, $200,000 to the Southwest Downtown Business Improvement District for infrastructure, $150,000 to the Pikes Peak Library District for books, magazines and computers, $50,000 to UCCS for scholarships and $25,000 to the Olympic Training Center.
Mayor John Suthers lauded the couple's generosity on Friday and said he hoped it might help inspire others.
"This is a perfect example of how impactful people can be," Suthers said.