The death of Kyle Johnson, who was remembered Monday as a loving family man, active community member, sports booster and successful firefighter, has rocked many in the Costa Mesa High School community.
Support has been pouring in for Johnson's wife, Kori, the highly successful Costa Mesa High cheer coach, as she and
the couple's children, Kevin, 13, and Kyra, 10, mourn. Their father was involved in an automobile accident near the Arizona-California border Sunday evening, Father's Day, and died early Monday. He was 42.
Kyle Johnson's truck crashed while he was driving to Costa Mesa from Lake Havasu. He was the only one in the truck, trailing a car that carried his son, friends Dino and Julie Ditta, and the Dittas' children.
He had asked that his organs be donated after his death, said Stacy Zachary, who has been a close friend of the Johnson family through the Costa Mesa Aquatic Club.
She helped relay messages to friends and the Daily Pilot from Kori Johnson. Details of the crash were not immediately provided by authorities in Arizona.
Kori Johnson posted a portrait of herself and her husband on Facebook on Monday, along with a message:
"I love this man with my entire heart and soul he was my best friend — please keep an eye on us all from Heaven — I'm sure (you're) teaching God, Jesus and all the saints how to ride motorcycles wake board and all your other crazy hobbies. I will miss you every day and I promise to raise our kids so you'll be proud of them. I miss you so much."
The couple met while students at Costa Mesa High, but they didn't date until after graduation.
Kyle was a bit of a goofy kid who excelled in water polo and swimming, said close friend Randy MacDonald, and Kori was an outgoing cheerleader. They had a lot of the same friends, including MacDonald and Sean Feazell.
Kyle Johnson, MacDonald and Feazell remained close friends into adulthood. After high school, Kyle Johnson shared a house with MacDonald across the street from where Kori lived with her family.
Kyle wanted to be a firefighter and eventually landed a job as battalion chief at the Tesoro Refinery in Carson, MacDonald said.
"He was so giving with his time," MacDonald said during a phone interview, which at times was interrupted by tears. "He was there to help you out and never ask for anything in return."
Zachary also cried for her friends.
"He's such a pillar of the community," Zachary said of Kyle Johnson. "There was this little boy who rode his bike to school, and his brakes didn't work, and he hit into a building. Kyle took the kid's bike and fixed it so he can have it ready for when he got out of school."
School district support
The Costa Mesa cheerleading program has been highly successful, winning several national and regional awards. Kori Johnson's program maintains a busy schedule not only with competitions but also with community service.
Newport-Mesa school board trustee Katrina Foley, who is a friend of the Johnson family, said counselors have been sent to help those at Sonora Elementary School, where Kyra attends, and Costa Mesa Middle School, where Kevin is a student, as well as Mesa High for the cheerleaders and many others.
Kori Johnson works as a health assistant at Sonora.
Foley said parents have been planning for a meal schedule for food delivery to the family. The Costa Mesa cheerleaders have also been working to set up special acts of support and asking others to help, Foley said.
Because the Johnson family touches so many lives, the community doesn't want them to struggle, Foley said.
"She has a team of people to get through this difficult time," Foley said. "We have such a great community, where everyone cares about each other."
Kyle Johnson's cremation will take place in Phoenix, Zachary said, and a memorial service will take place in Costa Mesa, for which no date has been made yet.