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Johnsons to depart Worthington Eye Clinic

The clinic is seeking another full-time optometrist.

Dr. Wally Johnson, left, and his wife, Susan, are leaving Worthington Eye Clinic to semi-retire in Pillager, where they will be closer to family.
Dr. Wally Johnson, left, and his wife, Susan, are leaving Worthington Eye Clinic to semi-retire in Pillager, where they will be closer to family.
Kari Lucin / The Globe
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WORTHINGTON — Worthington Eye Clinic optometrist Wally Johnson and his wife, Susan, the practice’s office manager, are looking forward to a bright future as they prepare to semi-retire in Baxter.

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Their final day at the clinic will be July 1.

“We’re excited for the next opportunity, and really, we just needed to slow down,” Wally said.

The couple is looking forward to living closer to their children and grandchildren, but there were other reasons to make the change too, Wally said.

“We just needed to slow down. My health isn’t as good as it could be,” he explained, adding that he hoped he’d get to spend more time outdoors exercising and less time in front of screens.

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The plan is for Wally and Susan to continue working together, but for two days a week rather than full-time, at the aptly-named Up North Eye Care, in Pillager.

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Originally, the Johnsons had no intention of moving, but then one of their children decided to move out of Rochester, and then they heard about a position for a part-time eye doctor. At the same time, Wally had been incredibly busy but felt that working on a computer all day long wasn’t good for his health.

The couple met with the optometrist in Pillager, and found they connected well. They also kept praying about their decision, and came to believe God was calling them there.

“All of the doors stayed wide open,” said Susan.

The pair also hopes to continue their work in ministry in the future.

“We have the opportunity to do that up north,” Susan said.

Currently, they belong to Grace Community Church in town, and are very involved there, working with youth and sound systems, and even offering an apologetics class in their home.

They also hope to spend more time outdoors, cross-country skiing, kayaking, biking and simply enjoying the lakes, trails and Mississippi River in northern Minnesota.

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“I feel the best when I’m outdoors,” Wally said.

Their new home will be just a few minutes away from their daughter, Amy Nickel, her husband Todd and their two children. It’ll also be closer to their other children: son Kit Johnson, his wife Heather and their three children, and daughter Kari Emery, her husband Phil and their three children.

The clinic, which Wally’s father founded in 1950, and his brother joined in 1971, was once known as Johnson Eye Clinic, and Wally has been serving as an optometrist there since 1988.

Avera bought the practice and then sold it in 2021, when it was purchased by Ophthalmology Limited.

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“It is hard to leave,” said Wally, who has experienced many shifts and changes in the field of optometry since he started, including more equipment and improved equipment that allows for easier diagnosis and monitoring of conditions within the eye.

Additionally, he’s been seeing fewer young, healthy eyes and more medical issues such as glaucoma, diabetes-related eye problems and macular degeneration, as well as more children with eye issues. The medical referral portion of practice has grown from about two patients a day to six.

For Susan’s part, she’s seen significant changes in technology and computers, as well as increasing federal and state regulations. She’s had to keep up with the changing insurance industry as well as shifts in medical record-keeping and compliance with privacy laws.

They both agree on one thing, though: they’ll miss their patients in Worthington.

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“The people are really the main thing,” Wally said.

The clinic won’t be going away now that the Johnsons are stepping aside, though. Instead, it’s looking for a new full-time optometrist to add to the full-time and part-time optometrists who will remain after the Johnsons leave. An optometrist from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, will also be helping out until they fill the vacant position.

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And Josh Jones, husband of another of the clinic’s optometrists, Lezlie Jones, will take over Susan’s position as office manager.

“It’s just a whole new thing for the community too,” Susan said. “The last Johnson is leaving the clinic.”

The community is invited to a farewell celebration for the Johnsons, scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. June 28 at Centennial Park. Hot dogs and chips will be served.

Related Topics: WORTHINGTONHEALTH
A 1999 graduate of Jackson County Central and a 2003 graduate of Augsburg College, Kari Lucin started writing for newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota in 2006. During her time as a reporter, she covered beats including education, watershed, county and agriculture, and frequently wrote about health and science. She has also served as an online content coordinator and an engagement specialist at various Forum Communications properties. She was a marketing assistant at Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville for two years, where she did design work in addition to writing and social media management.

Lucin is currently a community editor with the Globe of Worthington.

Email: klucin@dglobe.com
Phone: (507) 376-7319
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