COLUMBUS, Ga. – Friends and faculty at Northside High School are opening up about the life of Justin “JP” Johanson. They shared their special moments and last memories of the sophomore with News 3 Wednesday, three days after Johanson was hit and killed by a car on Bradley Park Drive near River Rd.
It seems as though the school is focused not solely on how Johanson died, but how they can honor his life.
“We met each other in little league and just went off from then,” high school baseball teammate Bryce Valero said. “I was talking to him and joking around with him in weight class.”
Valero recounts the last time he spoke with JP. Valero calls the latest hit for the team a loss.
“They take it hard because he was a fun guy in the locker room, a fun guy to be around,” Valero explained. “He brought energy to the team. Like I said, he made everybody laugh and made the games more fun.”
Valero says he will dedicate this current football season and the next baseball season to JP. Northside principal Marty Richburg says the death of JP stirred silent tremors in the school. He credits students for demonstrating strong leadership in the wake of the sports standout’s death.
“There are no classes in school,” Richburg said. “You don’t go through this type of training when you get ready to be a leader. So to be quite honest, I’ve kind of been fumbling through it.”
Love and support continue to flow in, not only at Northside High School, but also at the scene where JP was killed, and from other friends at Smiths Station High School and Columbus High School.
“To think that life could be taken so fast, it just puts everything into perspective,” JP’s baseball coach Dee Miller said.
Miller says he instilled confidence in JP. He recalls the only trouble JP getting into involved being on the baseball field. Miller says despite decisions he made the night he died, they will choose to remember how he lived rather than how he died.
“It doesn’t matter to me what happened that night, other than that JP’s no longer with us and how can we move forward…” Miller said. “It’s like I told his dad, my greatest fear as a coach is our greatest fear as parents. And that’s losing one of our kids.”
No charges have been filed in Johanson’s death. Funeral arrangements are set for Saturday, Sept. 10 at 2 p.m. St. Luke United Methodist Church will host the proceedings.