‘Everyone knows Gordy’: Ashland celebrity delivers smiles, positivity on daily walks

Gordy Johnson, Jr., spends his days spreading cheer.
Published: Jul. 14, 2023 at 8:57 AM CDT
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ASHLAND, WI. (Northern News Now) - On a sunny Tuesday afternoon in downtown Ashland, all kinds of hellos, honks, waves, and smiles can be seen and heard directed at one man on Main Street who everybody knows.

A walking legend in a tight-knit community on Lake Superior and a bright, joyous personality that can’t help but make you grin from ear to ear.

Wearing his construction orange vest, a gift with his name adorned on the back, Gordy Johnson, Jr., spends his days spreading cheer and sharing the gifts of daily life with each storefront and human that crosses his path.

It’s no ordinary path, either.

Sitting down alongside his friends on the back patio at the Black Cat Coffeehouse, Gordy informed us he typically walks 17 miles a day during the summer, since his family returned to the city in 1991.

It’s a number that begs the question, Why so much?

In Gordy’s eyes, the answer is simple: “Every day’s a good day when you can get on your feet.”

After strolling down the picturesque main drag together, the unofficial Ashland ambassador shared the story of why he was never supposed to be able to do any of this.

Since suffering complications during his birth, Gordy has had to endure numerous procedures and operations to overcome the odds and get to the point where he’s at today.

“I suffered some brain damage. (My parents were told) I was never going to walk or talk or do anything... I never gave up. I was a fighter from day number one,” he said.

Not taking any day for granted, he’ll even take the bus to Walmart and the hospital during the winter. He makes sure he gets his meaningful steps and conversations in.

Gordy has earned his Ashland celebrity status by making the time and putting in the effort to let others know how important their presence is in that community and this life, all with a simple smile.

Because just like his business card says, he’s ‘putting on the miles for your smiles.’

As we said our goodbyes and gave thanks for the time we shared, and knowing his day was not even close to done, I had to ask him, “How many more miles do you have today?”

To which he responded with a beaming sense of happiness, “Just a few more to go.”

Gordy’s friend and Ashland musician Jerry Willard has even created and dedicated an entire album to him, including songs based on his life.

You can click here for the link to the album on SoundClick.

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