Aaron Johnson

Aaron Johnson

Tributes are pouring in for Aaron Johnson, former Canadian National Trampoline Champion and Coach, who lost his life yesterday after a bad fall. Aaron is being remembered by those who knew and loved him from around the world. He was a pioneer in Canadian trampoline and tumbling, but mostly he touched everyone around him. His loss is profoundly felt by the entire international acrobatic community.

Aaron is survived by his wife Valerie and two children, Travis and Sarah.

Heather Ross McManus wrote:

As an athlete Aaron trained with the Nissen Trampoline Company Team in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he performed in acrobatic shows between travels to major competitions. After representing Canada at the 1974 World Championships he earned a reputation for being one of the highest bouncers in the world. He was Canadian Champion in 1975 and 1976 and was the first Canadian ever to compete a triffis.

After an injury forced an early end to his own athletic career Aaron became a coach of the Shasta Trampoline Team in New Westminster, British Columbia (Canada). Based on the results of his athletes he earned the position of Canadian National Team coach from 1979 to 1990. He coached 1982 DMT World Champion, Christine Tough, as well as 1984 Bronze Medalist Vikki Bullock and 1992 Bronze Medalist Jeremy Brock.

In 1999, Aaron was recruited by Cirque du Soleil, where he applied his coaching skills as an artistic coach with Mystere in Las Vegas, then in 2004 Aaron created the Vancouver Circus School along with his son Travis.

We are grateful for everything you did for the sport Aaron, and for the parts of that we were each lucky to share with you.

Darryl Scheelar wrote:
Aaron Johnson was not only the loving father to his son, Travis shown here (photo above), his daughter. Sarah, and husband to Valerie, but he was also an amazing and giving mentor and coach to hundreds of athletes and performers of both trampoline and circus. I met Aaron in 1981, and through his excellent guidance and instruction, I went on to win several national titles. But that pales in comparison to what he did for me after my trampoline and tumbling career was over. In 1987, Aaron was still running the Detached Youth Program for Family Services. He decided to take a chance on me, and hired me as a youth counselor at their drop-in centre. 4 months later he hired a young girl named Kristina von Ilberg, and she and I hit it off. We ended up getting married 3 years later, and having 2 beautiful children together. So, not only did Aaron give me the skills and building blocks to be successful in my career as a stunt performer, but he also gave me the family that I have today. Our hearts go out to the entire Johnson family at this time. Aaron will be FOREVER in the Hearts of Kristina and myself. THANK YOU and RIP, Aaron
Aaron on a happy day with former athletes at a Shasta Reunion:

More about Aaron:

Vancouver Circus School

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13 Responses to Aaron Johnson

  1. ronmunn November 30, 2012 at 12:49 pm #

    Although I lost contact with Aaron over the years, I will always remember the fun times Eddie Cole and I had with him. He was not only an outstanding trampolinist (bounced higher than anyone I had ever seen), but was also a kind and generous person to be around.
    Rest in peace Aaron….you will always be remembered.

    Ron Munn

    • Leigh Hennessy Robson November 30, 2012 at 1:24 pm #

      I haven’t seen him in years, either. But you could never forget his gentle spirit. I think everyone is in shock.

  2. Judy Wills Cline November 30, 2012 at 2:47 pm #

    Aaron, was an amazing person. It was such a blessing to have Aaron live in Las Vegas when he worked for Cirque du Soleil. I treasure our many jam sessions on trampoline. His ideas, technical expertise and passion for our sport of trampoline was a gift that will never be forgotten. My prayers are with his family. I hope that in his families sorrow that it will comfort them to know they are in our hearts and thoughts. Rest in peace Aaron, Thanks for all you did for our sport.
    With a sad heart and love, Judy

  3. Jack Downs November 30, 2012 at 5:03 pm #

    Just a few thoughts about a truly remarkable man.


    The Man Who Soared.

    • Leigh Hennessy Robson December 1, 2012 at 7:38 am #

      I read your post yesterday. It’s very touching. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  4. Steven Grannary November 30, 2012 at 8:51 pm #

    Aaron was a true champion and coach. He always supported and motivated myself and the Edmonton team. He gave me amazing opertunities to grow as a person and as an athlete. He will always be remembered as someone who made a difference in our lives and we will miss him dearly. RIP coach and friend

  5. Fred Hodgins December 1, 2012 at 12:21 am #

    I am at a loss for words; Aaron was my first cousin and a boyhood hero of mine.

    I remember a trip from Ontario Canada to Maryland USA to visit when I was about 10 years old. My mom drove with us three little kids. (Aaron is 10 years older than me) We saw him perform at the university.

    He was amazing, he could jump sooooo high, and I remember him grabbing hold of the gymnasium roof, looking around and dropping head first to the trampoline and at the last split second curling up and bouncing back to the ceiling which seemed a mile high to this young boy. That is MY cousin.

    When I was in grade ten there was a traveling Trampoline show at our country high school. This was a big deal and an assembly to see the event, I even skipped a class (sorry mom) to talk to the athletes. I asked if they ever heard of Aaron Johnston. His eyes got big and said Aaron Johnston was one of his idols, that he was the highest jumper in the world and could do things no one else could. I puffed out my chest and said, “he is my first cousin”.

    Once at a small family reunion at our family farm in Ontario in honour of our maternal grandmother, Aaron went to extreme difficulties (missed flights and connections, rented cars, etc.) to get here. Our Grandmother was so surprised; I remember her tears of joy. He was a man who always went the extra mile for those he loved.

    The few times we got together were always a treat for me, he was the oldest of his siblings and so am I so it seemed we had an extra bond. In minutes it was like we were best friends, it is hard to explain, I am not sure I can. My cousin Aaron had that way about him.

    Aaron gave tirelessly to those less fortunate, to his family, to his community and country.

    Even though we never lived close and only met in person a few times, I always felt close to him and have strived in my life to be like my big cousin Aaron.

    Aaron, you will be sorely missed.

    Your little cousin, Fred

    • Leigh Hennessy Robson December 1, 2012 at 7:42 am #

      Thanks, Fred, for sharing your memories of Aaron. I’m not surprised that he would go to such great lengths for his loved ones. He was always gentle and kind.

    • Frisco Canyon aka Frank Neglia January 4, 2013 at 5:32 pm #

      Hi Fred,
      It may have been me who did that trampoline show at your school. Aaron was undoubtedly my hero. I competed in the same competitions as he. In 1975, he won the senior division title while I won the junior. I remember in one competition, that the tramp he was to compete on
      had to be strategically positioned as to accommodate his high bouncing. All our jaws were on the floor while he did his routine between the beams.

      He used to do three and three quarter somersaults, so I had to do three and three quarter somersaults. So I did them. In one of our talks he asked me: So when are you going to do a four and three quarter?

      So I did a “4 & 3” in 1979 in his honor. Then I find out a few months later that he had asked my coach, Durango, for the video of it. What Aaron told me what had done was make photos of each frame of the 8mm film of my “4 & 3” then he hung each picture side by side in his room. A testament to him to recognize the abilities of others without any competitive ego getting in the way.

      How can one not be honored by this.
      He will fly with me always.


  6. Fred Altiere December 1, 2012 at 10:58 am #

    Aaron will forever bounce in my cherished 1971-1975 youth memories …

    … as a fun teammate of the University of Maryland’s Gymkana Troupe
    where we all watched him progressively push altitude — I can attest to his
    often touching the ceiling at our practice gymnasium at Cole Field House!

    … as a great fiddle-player bandmate at “Sassafras String Band” gigs on
    campus and wonderful front porch jam sessions at his mom’s house near
    College Park, Maryland,


    Free from the gravitational force you never quit defying.
    Please pass our regards to Coach Kramer.

    With deepest and sincere sympathy with your wonderful
    family and friends …



  7. Scott Highton December 2, 2012 at 11:55 am #

    Terribly sad news. I knew Aaron briefly from our Gymkana Troupe workouts, practices, and from coaching with him at several camps in the DC area in the late ’70s. He was one of those athletes whom we all looked up to, even though his power, strength, and sheer altitude on the trampoline scared the hell out of me.

    After the kids had gone home following one of our camps one day, Aaron and I stuck around to “play” on the trampoline. He had installed a 1/4″ bed on it, which was far too springy for my tramp skills, so I mostly stood on the ground down near the end ready to spot him. After watching him throw a couple of triples, trifises, and I think a quad or two sailing 25-30 feet in the air, I realized that there was really not a thing I could do to spot or protect him if he ran into trouble.

    Just about that time, he spoke up and said, “Scott, you’re better off not trying to spot me. Just try to keep me from hitting the frame on a rebound.”

    It was the following season that he had his accident where he broke his back. Yet, a year or so later, he was back coaching with me at the same summer camp, his back in a brace and with multiple fused vertebrae, but he was every bit as good a coach as he ever was. And every single kid absolutely adored him.

    I am indeed fortunate to have known him for those few brief years. It is so sad knowing he’s no longer with us. My heartfelt condolences go out to his family and loved ones.

  8. Yolanda Goodwin March 23, 2013 at 10:30 pm #

    Aaron didn’t just fly, he taught kids how to fly and gave them their wings. He gave a fatherless girl a father figure when she needed it. He got her back on her bike when she was in a car accident on it and was terrified to get back on. He gave her the courage to grow and more. He took kids camping and rock climbing and mountain biking. He advocated for them. He was their sounding board and he never judged. The fact that the girl I am talking about was also in his trampoline classes when she was younger was just one of the facets of their relationship. Whenever she went looking for him, he was always there to be found.

    I was just one of the many kids that he mentored and more. I can never thank him enough for being there when I needed him – thanks to him, I can still ride a bike.

  9. Eric DeVos April 8, 2013 at 9:45 am #

    I had the wonderful opportunity to be a member of the Maryland Gymkana Troupe from 1971 – 1974 with Aaron. Though my skills never even approached the level of his, we bounced together almost daily for three years.

    Aaron always encouraged me to stretch to new lengths; to try the more difficult move; and to soar. And he always promised to be there as my spotter – even though I outweighed him by almost 30 lbs! What a great friend and athlete.

    A funny story for those of you that remember Aaron’s enthusiasm. In 1975, I took a date (who is now my wife of 37 years) to a trampoline competition between the USA and the USSR at South Mountain Arena in South Orange, NJ. As the competitors were announced, there was one member of a Canadian team who walked in under the Canadian flag – Aaron. I said to Cindy, (my date and wife), “Hey, I know that guy, Aaron Johnson – he’s terrific, and he’ll win the competition.” Cindy, who didn’t know me well, just went along with me, commenting politely.

    After the competition, which Aaron did win, I said to Cindy, “Come on, let’s go down and see him.” She commented that it was OK, she knew that I really didn’t know him and was just trying to impress her. I told her I was going, and she followed. When I called out to Aaron, he ran over to me and jumped on me – arms around my neck, and legs around my waist. It was thrilling to see him. Of course, I introduced him to Cindy, who has never again doubted my word.

    Our time together with the Gymkana troupe has been an integral part of my life, and I have always cherished those years, and the leadership that Dr. Kramer, Dr. Murray, and Aaron taught me. The skills have long been forgotten, but the lessons of good health, strong body, and drug free have made me such a better person.

    Peace and love to you, my old friend.

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