WEST FARGO — Seven-year-old Grantley Johnson, a second grader at Freedom Elementary School, died Thursday, Feb. 6, after a long battle with acute myeloblastic leukemia.
Johnson, known as “Super G” in the community, had been fighting the aggressive form of cancer since April 2018.
The West Fargo boy who loved sports and superheroes died at 11:12 p.m. Thursday, according to a Facebook post by a family member that also said, “...our sweet little great nephew Grantley Johnson lost his battle with leukemia. We knew it was coming, but still, getting that call last night was devastating.
"Please pray for comfort, hope, and strength for his parents, grandparents, friends and for his entire family. Pray for a cure for cancer so that no one and no other family ever has to go through this," the post continued.
Johnson was diagnosed with AML, defined by cancer.gov as "a type of cancer in which the bone marrow makes abnormal myeloblasts, red blood cells or platelets,” a month before his sixth birthday after being taken to the hospital for a persistent rash by his parents, who initially thought he had mononucleosis.
Throughout his journey with the disease, the superhero enthusiast embodied his favorite characters — so much so that Jack Haile, a trainer at CrossFit Icehouse in Fargo where Johnson's dad, Jordan, works out, developed a comic in honor of him, “Super G,” about a mohawk-sporting superhero based on the boy.
The news of his passing prompted an immediate response from the community. The Fargo Force hockey team, who Johnson helped design a special jersey for that the entire team will wear on Feb. 22 when they play the Sioux City Musketeers, said the organization was “deeply saddened to learn of the passing of our superhero, Grantley.”
The Minot (N.D.) Minotauros hockey team also paid tribute on social media, saying Johnson had been a part of their family as an honorary captain, coach and friend since 2018, when his battle with cancer first began.
The Tauros wore orange jerseys, Johnson's favorite color, earlier this season in honor of the boy, and asked fans to help honor him by wearing orange to their game against the Aberdeen Wings on Wednesday, Feb. 12.
Johnson's story also impacted teams and members of the Sheyenne High School community in West Fargo.
The Mustangs boys basketball team named him a coach earlier this season in a Jan. 7 game against Fargo Shanley, where Johnson grabbed his first win as the team's coach over the Deacons.
On Tuesday, Feb. 4, at the Sheyenne boys and girls basketball games against Shanley, both schools raised money for the Johnson family with a free-will offering and 3-point halftime shootout.
In April 2019, it appeared things would be returning to normal for the Johnson family. The young boy was in remission, and his dad said doctors told the family there was a 90 percent chance the disease wouldn’t return.
For a short while, he returned to his favorite pastimes — watching superhero movies and sharpening his skills in wrestling, his favorite sport, at a camp at Sheyenne High School.
But in three short months, the normalcy ended. The same rash returned, and it was confirmed that the AML was back. Treatments had since stopped, as the chemo was too hard on the second grader.
Funeral arrangements for Johnson are pending.