Nelsen Williamsburg


Ralph William Johnson

Passed away on July 10, 2021

Ralph William Johnson died of natural causes at home with his wife by his side on July 10, 2021 at the age of 84. Ralph was born in Knox, Indiana to the late Ralph and Bertha Johnson. He is survived by Marilyn, his loving wife of nearly 61 years; three children; daughter Deborah (in Minneapolis) and twins Ken (wife Laura) from New York and Gail (in northern Virginia); grandchildren Nicole, Conrad, and Erin; and his sister Ruth (husband Bob) from Tennessee.

Ralph graduated from Valparaiso University in 1959 with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering, immediately joining Turner Construction Company's Chicago office as a field engineer upon graduation.

He progressed rapidly with Turner, his responsibilities including engineering, field supervision, purchasing, estimating, cost, and project management. The resulting wide-ranging expertise saw him named corporate vice president for company-wide operations in 1986 and Senior Vice President of Operations in 1993. He retired after 43 years of service in 2003 at which time Turner had 3,600 employees and nearly $5 billion in revenues. Ralph and his family moved nineteen times during those 43 years, ranging coast-to-coast from California to Connecticut and building six houses in the process. He and Marilyn nonetheless kept their senses of humor throughout. In summarizing his career, the company wrote, "Ralph Johnson proved himself to be a great builder and leader. Ralph's most enduring legacy is the impact he had coaching, mentoring, and providing guidance to others. His dedication to service and active caring for others continue to serve as a model for leadership in our company and for the industry."

Ralph's education at Valparaiso (Valpo) was so important to him that he continued the relationship with his university throughout the remainder of his life. He was an inaugural member of Valpo's College of Engineering National Council from 2001 to 2021, received the Alumni Achievement Award in 2000, and was honored with the Alumni Service Award in 2018. He and wife Marilyn established the Ralph and Marilyn Mertins Johnson Endowed Scholarship Fund in 2002.

Among the many awards Ralph received during this career are the Design Build Institute of America Special Media Award for Excellence in Writing on Design-Build Issues (1998), American Institute of Constructors Walter A. Nashert Sr. Constructor Award (2002), and Associated General Contractors Tate Distinguished Service Award (2021). He was in addition an arbitrator with the American Arbitration Association, Washington, D.C.; President of General Building Contractors of NY State; and in March 2000 was named President of Associated General Contractors (AGC), the country's leading association for the construction industry. Colleagues described Ralph as "one of the most respected construction guys in the US. Government contracting officials, architects and engineers all know him.... This is man who spent a lifetime traveling about the world as a contractor, a man who thrives on challenges and always delivers the goods."

Ralph nonetheless found time to instill a love of gardening in all three of his children. His passion for golf extended to teaching his grandson, Conrad, and playing with him as he grew up. He was also a wonderful woodworker, making furniture, jewelry boxes, and more. Pinochle and Bridge were favorite card games. His weekly Pinochle group was especially enjoyable as were hours of reading, history being a particular interest.

Visitation will be at Nelsen Funeral Home (3785 Strawberry Plains Road, Williamsburg, VA 23188) on Tuesday, August 3 from 5-8 p.m. A memorial service will be held at St. Stephen Lutheran Church (612 Jamestown Road, Williamsburg, VA 23185) on Wednesday, August 4 at 1 p.m. The church service will be on Facebook and can be viewed live at In retirement, Ralph liked to wear golf shirts and casual slacks, so please feel comfortable dressing casually for the service.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Valparaiso University, c/o Christy Graf, Loke Hall (LOC), 11000 Campus Drive South, Valparaiso, Indiana, 46383. Online condolences may be shared at



Ralph William Johnson

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Linda Phillips

July 19, 2021

I worked at GSA and worked with Ralph many times when he served as a Construction Excellence Peer. Ralph was the best, so knowledgeable and easy to work with. We always called for him on the problem projects. He was a great mentor, collaborator and just such a nice guy. I will miss him.

Carmen Syed

July 18, 2021

Sending our thoughts and prayers to all the family. ❤️🙏 So thankful to Uncle Ralph for helping Jonathan attend Valpo and work at Turner.

Efren Olivo

July 13, 2021

Golfing Buddy, my son Chris enjoyed talking to Ralph on schooling and math.