Gary Johnson was born and raised in Centralia, Washington, where his father worked in the woods and had a farm. When he was about twelve years old, the family moved to Port Angeles, Washington, where he father operated a sawmill. Eventually, they settled in Port Townsend and his parents ran a bowling alley. Gary came to Alaska in 1964 as a college student and got his first cannery job packing crab in Kodiak. He then worked as the storekeeper for the Alaska Packers Association cannery in Larsen Bay for about three years, and then was hired as an assistant bookkeeper at their cannery in South Naknek. He also worked as a bookkeeper at Pilot Point and Egegik. Gary worked his way up the career ladder and by the early 1970s was appointed assistant superintendent of the <NN> Cannery in South Naknek, and eventually became superintendent. He had a long career as a superintendent who was known for running a tight ship, keeping the cannery productive and profitable, and for caring about his employees and fostering good relations between the cannery and the community of South Naknek. In the mid-1990s, Gary was severly injured in a boating accident that prevented him from continuing on as superintendent at <NN> Cannery.