In the heart of California’s central valley, a two-hour drive from anywhere, is Modesto. Modesto is an agricultural community, the home of the Gallo Family Winery and the birthplace of filmmaker George Lucas. Lucas’s film American Graffiti was inspired by George’s own experiences cruising 10th street in Modesto. The town of Modesto pays homage to Lucas and American Graffiti every summer with its two-day American Graffiti Car Show and Festival.
Cruising was also a regular amusement for Jeff Johnson, who was born in Modesto on December 17, 1969. The oldest child of Bob & Irene Johnson, Jeff was followed by his sister Kim two years later.
Almonds are California’s number one tree nut crop. Growers in the central valley of California produce 80% of the world’s almond supply. The landscape in that area is a nearly unbroken forest of almond trees, individual orchards discernible only by those who own them.
When Jeff was about 7 years old, after living for a year on a small cattle ranch raising pigs and chickens in addition to cows, the Johnsons moved to Hughson (a tiny town about 20 miles east of Modesto) to start a life as almond growers.
Jeff grew up learning how to work. His responsibilities on the family farm were unending. Even during the summer months, when Jeff’s parents (who both had other jobs) were at work, Jeff was expected to be out in the orchards working. (He did sometimes sneak into the house for a bit to watch Green Acres or Gunsmoke.) As he got older, Jeff also had jobs working for other almond farmers in the area.
Jeff attended school in Hughson, small schools with few students, which gave Jeff the freedom to participate in many different things. In high school, Jeff played golf, baseball and football. He also excelled at academics and graduated second in a class of 120. During his senior year, Jeff applied to BYU and was accepted.
Jeff was the first member of his family to attend college, so when choosing an area of study, he looked to the examples of two of his uncles and majored in accounting at BYU.
Jeff’s extended family influenced his life in many ways. Most of his cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents lived close by. They often got together for picnics and barbecues and they held a family reunion at Lake Tahoe every summer. Relatives on both sides of his family were good friends and companions to Jeff.
One of the most influential people in Jeff’s life was his grandmother, Nola McFarland. Grandma McFarland cared for Jeff and Kim when their parents were away. She had a hilarious and unique sense of humor which manifested itself in her unusual collection of whimsical chachkies.
Grandma McFarland also loved her backyard where she had fruit trees and a delightful assortment of succulent plants.
Jeff enjoyed spending time with his grandmother and maintained a close relationship with her until she died in the spring of 2013.
Jeff was also very close to his grandfather, A.J. White. Grandpa White was kind and generous, creative and skilled with his hands. Jeff loved spending time with Grandpa White and considered him a good friend.
When he was old enough to own his own car, Jeff and his dad bought a 1973 Volkswagen Super Beetle. Although his dad helped him buy the car, Jeff was responsible for the care and maintenance of the car. Jeff and his dad took care of all of the family’s cars–everything from oil changes to upgrades.
With a lack of foresight that Jeff has since come to regret, he sold the Volkswagen and bought a Jeep. He was later involved in an accident which resulted in a broken wrist for Jeff and the Jeep was totaled. After that, Jeff drove the 1955 Ford F100 pickup truck which had been used on the farm for many years.
Jeff attended BYU for a year before serving a mission. He served in the Brazil Belo Horizonte mission where he frustrated his fellow missionaries by refusing to speak anything but Portuguese for the first year.
Jeff still says that serving a mission was the best thing he ever did because of the friends he made. Jeff and a few of his buddies decided to live together after their missions. Some of those guys were already friends with a few girls who lived in their apartment complex at BYU. Those girls had a roommate who was absolutely adorable and had awesome hair. She was also very kind to Jeff.
Jeff and Rach were married on May 6, 1994. All of Jeff’s mission buddies attended the wedding.
During the next 18 months, Jeff completed a Master’s Degree in Accounting & Information Systems. He was then hired by Deloitte & Touche in Dallas to work in their new IT department.
Jeff and Rach moved to Dallas a few days before Christmas in 1995. Rach was 7 months pregnant. Chase was born on February 21, 1996.
Living in Dallas was a challenge for the little Johnson family. The IT department at Deloitte & Touche was so new that Jeff spent a lot of time doing auditing instead. The summers were hot, there was no family close by and, because of the infamous Wright Amendment, it was incredibly expensive to travel into or out of Dallas. After two years, they decided to make a change. Jeff asked for and was given a transfer to the Denver office. He and Rach visited the area and found an apartment. The move was only days away, but it just didn’t feel right. Jeff called the Denver office and told them he wouldn’t be coming.
Jeff’s brother-in-law Alex was working for a new tech company in Sandy, Utah called TenFold. Jeff interviewed with them and was offered a job. TenFold was opening an office in Dallas and asked Jeff to be part of that operation. About a year after that, Jeff and Rach bought their first house. In Frisco, they knew they had found a home.
After a few years, Jeff got a call from a guy he had worked with at TenFold. This guy was part of a group that had started a litigation support company and he wanted Jeff to work with them. That company was the predecessor to what is now iControl, where Jeff is the president and part-owner.
Jeff’s job is stressful and consuming and doesn’t leave him much time for hobbies. But, a few years ago, Jeff decided (at the encouragement of his incredibly supportive wife) to start rebuilding that old Ford truck. It’s a project that is also stressful and consuming, but Jeff loves it.
Jeff also loves his family and loves spending time with them. He is proud of his kids and who they are growing up to be. He’s a loyal, adoring and appreciative husband. Life is truly good.