Karolyn Erickson Eastman, a family friend, confirmed Johnson’s passing late Saturday afternoon. He was 93.
Johnson, along with brothers Edgar and Allan Hetteen, started the Hetteen Hoist and Derrick company in Roseau in the mid-1940s, making straw choppers and other equipment.
They incorporated as Polaris Industries in 1954, taking the name from a sprayer they had purchased from a developer in North Dakota. Before snowmobiles became their flagship product, the Roseau entrepreneurs made everything from plowshares to garbage cans.
“We made anything that would give us a dollar,” Johnson said in a March 2015 Grand Forks Herald story. “We made quite a bit of machinery for the farmers.
An avid outdoorsman, Johnson said they built their first snowmobile in January 1956 as a way to enjoy the outdoors in winter. They assembled the machine from parts on hand in their shop, including roller chains for the track and a car bumper for skis.