Editor’s note: This story is part of a series about Oklahomans who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read the stories of other Oklahomans here. Have you lost a loved one to COVID-19? Help us tell their story. 

Johnny Frederick Marlin picked up his first guitar at age five — a battered instrument with three strings he found in his uncle’s garbage can. 

He had a natural talent and taught himself to play. 

As a child, it seemed like everyone in Stilwell knew Kristy Young’s affable, musical dad. 

“He was just so well known here in the community as a great musician — just a good guy who would help anyone,” she said. 

It was love at first sight when Johnny met beautician Susan Charmaine Young at a nightclub in West Siloam Springs in 1973. Johnny moved to Stilwell and the couple raised five children together. 

Over the years, Johnny worked as a plumber, a salesman, a delivery man, and a transit driver. He loved working with the public and meeting new people.

Johnny was born Dec. 18, 1946, at his aunt’s home in Nowata. He grew up in Lenapah with a large family that included four brothers and seven sisters. After high school, Johnny served in the U.S. Army for two years and was stationed in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

Some of Kristy’s favorite memories of Johnny are of the times they would sing and play guitar together. Sometimes they would play three songs, sometimes they would play 20.

“I’d have friends that were out running around and I’d be playing music with my dad at home. But it made us happy,” she said. 

Johnny was undergoing treatment for lung cancer when he and Susan both began exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 around the same time in March 2020. 

Susan died of COVID-19 in March 2020 and Johnny followed her in death on May 28, 2020. He was 73 years old. 

The couple is survived by a big family that includes the five children they raised together, eight grandchildren and five great grandchildren. 

Kristy’s 14-year old son is now teaching himself to play Johnny’s guitar. 

“I wish he would have started a few years earlier, when he had the best teacher he could have had, but he’s picking it up pretty quick,” Kristy said.