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Johnson Towing honored by local police, fire departments

By Brandi Makuski

Johnson Towing of Stevens Point has been honored for its work with local emergency responders.

The Stevens Point-based business is often the first call made by police or firefighters who respond to a vehicle collision in the city. Not long after, one member or more of the Parnham family appears with a tow truck or an extra pair of hands.

The company was honored by several local agencies during the city’s Jan. 7 police and fire commission meeting.

“When I think of Johnson Towing I think of someone who’s a leader in the community—and that’s what they are to us, every day,” said Stevens Point Fire Chief Robert Finn. “There’s never a time that we can’t pick up the phone to call you and ask you for help.”

Beyond scene response, Johnson Towing offers help with emergency training. The company will donate abandoned vehicles, which often end up being set on fire or cut apart during police and fire training. Some of that training—as well as classes for the annual Citizens Academy—occur in the Johnson tow yard off Patch St. The Parnham family often lays out a food spread for participants in its garage bay.

Finn said that kind of involvement “saves lives in this community,” adding the informal ceremony on Tuesday was, “just a small way for us to show you our respect for your business, respect for what you do for us, and your generosity throughout the community.”

Company owners Darrell and Elizabeth “Betty” Parnham accepted department Challenge Coins during the meeting from the Portage Co. Citizens Academy, Portage Co. Sheriff’s Office, Stevens Point Fire Department, and Stevens Point and Plover Police departments.

“We definitely appreciate all these people, the time and effort you put in,” said Betty Parnham, waving her hand to the roomful of law enforcement officers and firefighters. “We’re here to help you. I don’t care if you call me in the middle of the night and say, ‘Hey, can you bring me out [bottled] water to a fire,’ I will. Anything we can do to make your lives easier, or better, don’t be afraid to ask.”

Johnson Towing was founded in 1968 by Bob Johnson. Darrell Parnham, also a certified EMT, began working for Johnson “sometime in the 1980s,” Betty Parnham said. She and Darrell were married in 1993 and purchased the business from Johnson in 1995.

Along with towing disabled passenger vehicles, she said, the company also has the ability to haul some large equipment like MRI machines, perform short- and long-distance accident recovery, conduct repossessions, and assist with vehicle lockouts.

The Parnhams accepted the honor with humility, with Betty saying, “I have to thank my parents for giving me good guidance about treating people the way you want to be treated; same with Don Zietlow,” referencing the president and CEO of Kwik Trip, where she’s worked for many years at the northside location in Stevens Point. She also serves on the board of directors for the Wisconsin Towing Association.

“I think if you look around the room here today, you’ll see how so many members of our protective services feel about you,” said Gary Wescott, president of the police and fire commission. “Normally, this room is completely empty.”