Longtime Acton-Boxborough boys’ and girls’ swimming coach Jeff Johnson died suddenly Friday afternoon at the age of 74, A-B athletic director Steve Martin confirmed to the Globe.
Johnson’s death came two days before eight A-B boys are scheduled to swim in Sunday’s Division 1 state championship meet at Boston University. The boys’ team placed fifth in last week’s Division 1 North sectional, Johnson’s final meet. He coached the boys’ team for 41 years and the girls’ team in the fall season for 18 years and amassed more than 500 dual meet victories between the two programs.
A moment of silence in Johnson’s honor will be held at all four boys’ and girls’ state meets Saturday and Sunday.
“I think our whole community is devastated by it,” Martin said.
Johnson guided the girls to a second-place finish at the Division 1 state meet last fall and was named the Globe’s 2017-18 Division 1 Girls’ Swimming Coach of the Year.
Johnson was also the Globe’s Girls’ Swimming Coach of the Year in 2012 and was inducted into the Acton-Boxborough High School Athletic Hall of Fame in April 2018.
Johnson will be remembered for his kindness and ability to form close relationships with A-B community members.
“The guy was just an incredible guy,” Martin said. “He would always come in early, stop in, say hi to me, and check on my family.”
MIAA state tournament director and former Weston swimming coach Pete Foley had a long friendship with Johnson, dating back to the 1970s, when both men were young coaches in the Dual County League.
“We became very friendly rivals, we had great meets through the years,” Foley said. “Many times in the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s, the winner of the A-B-Weston meet determined the winner of the Dual County League.
“Picking his brain ... it was one of the best clinics I ever attended.”
Johnson also helped Foley’s son Mike, the Wayland swimming coach, learn the ropes of coaching at the high school level.
“He was a great mentor for younger coaches coming into the profession,” Foley said.
Johnson is survived by his wife Marj, a Special Education teacher at A-B.
Brandon Chase can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org