Margaret Eileen Dethlefs Johnson
1918 - 2012
Margaret Eileen Dethlefs Johnson was born June 10, 1918, in Manning, Iowa. She died July 21, 2012, at home in Faribault, Minnesota. Margaret lived all of her 94 years wisely, well and to the fullest. Her life was interesting, sometimes painful, sometimes exciting, always loving.
Margaret graduated from Manning High School in 1936 and left Manning to earn her R.N. degree at St. Joseph's Hospital, the teaching hospital of Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. She maintained her nursing license until she was 90 years old.
In 1942, Margaret married a young doctor, Richard "Dick" Moltzen Johnson. Margaret supported them working as a surgical nurse while Dick interned at Santa Clara County (California) Hospital. After the birth of two daughters, Dick was discharged from active service in the Navy in 1946, and, after a couple of years in Slayton, Minnesota, the family settled in Denison, Iowa, where Margaret and Dick remained for 20 years. They raised their daughters in Denison and made many civic contributions to the community. Margaret served as a volunteer Red Cross nurse; she was a frequent chaperone, chauffeur and sponsor of any team or music group or school project of her daughters from first grade through high school. Margaret served in Denison as Worthy Matron of the Order of the Eastern Star.
In 1968, Dick joined the foreign service as an embassy doctor, and he and Margaret left for Lagos, Nigeria, their first post, where Margaret became famous for her skill at negotiating with the itinerant peddlers of Nigerian artifacts. She helped to found an orphanage for young victims of the Biafran war. She worked on the first of her rubbings of tribal tablets and tombstones.
In 1970, Margaret and Dick began their tour of Rangoon, Burma. Margaret started painting here, the serene scenes from her verandah. She was a hostess of note to Burmese dignitaries and once accepted a small bowl of rubies as a hostess gift from one delighted dinner guest. She honed her bargaining skills on the Burmese tradesmen and artisans and acquired carved teak furniture and Burmese lacquer treasures.
In 1972, Margaret and Dick moved to La Paz, Bolivia, and in 1974 retired from the foreign service. They moved to Columbia, South Carolina, where Dick was the deputy chief of staff at the V.A. hospital. They lived on the hospital grounds and entertained friends, children and grandchildren. They played golf and traveled extensively with their 26-foot Airstream trailer.
Dick died in 1979, and in 1981 Margaret built her "little brown house" at 1030 Parshall Street in Faribault, Minnesota. Margaret adjusted to single life and then became a most ardent and vocal supporter of seniors' needs and rights. She was a charter member of Faribault Area Senior Citizens, Inc., and her work was important to getting the Faribault Senior Center built. She was on the Board for several years, remained a member of FASC the rest of her life and volunteered for years at the Clothes Closet and at other Center activities. In 1999, FASC presented her with a Certificate of Appreciation. She was a faithful and tuneful member of the Golden Notes until that group disbanded. She was an active member of the District One Hospital Auxiliary and the Faribault Women's Club. She was a member for Rice County on the Minnesota Public Health Council. She was Rice County Senior Citizen of the Year in 1996 and received State of Minnesota Governor's Certificates of Commendation as an outstanding senior in 1992, 1994 and 1996. She received a United Way appreciation plaque in 1997-1998 for her 1996-1998 work as an Allocations Committee member, the Retiree Division Chair and service on the Board of Directors. Margaret was a 1994 "Unsung Hero" recognized by the Faribault Daily News, KDHL, Tatge Jewelry and Faribault Chamber of Commerce.
Margaret loved to travel in the U.S.A. and to Australia with her daughter Kay's family and always enjoyed the family traveling Christmases, for the last 16 years usually on Jekyll Island, Georgia, now the home of daughter Sonja Mary. Margaret was an enthusiastic bridge player, a prodigious reader and worker of crossword puzzles and a great caddy who drove the golf cart with enthusiasm. She loved good conversation, though she would seldom talk politics. She loved to tell stories and jokes - Ole and Lena were favorites. Margaret truly loved the Minnesota Twins and never missed a game, knew all the players, scores and batting averages. She followed the Vikings with interest; she watched almost every golf tournament on TV and attended a few in person, including the Masters with Dick. She enjoyed watching the Olympic ice skaters; she seldom missed Dancing with the Stars and recently became a fan of Storage Wars. Margaret had a lifelong passion for birds: her kitchen clock sounded bird calls; she painted birds and collected birds; she was religious about putting out bird seed and had seen most of the bird species that can be found in Minnesota, and watched for birds in her travels too.
Most of all, Margaret loved her family and friends.
Margaret was an only child; she was predeceased by her beloved husband Dick, her parents and aunts and uncles. She is survived, in order of age, by her daughters and much loved sons-in-law, Sonja Mary Peterson married to David Peterson, and Kay Eileen Johnson married to Bill Koenigsdorf; her grandchildren Marka Peterson married to John Kenkel, Sacha Peterson, Matthew Koenigsdorf married to Kristen Koenigsdorf, and McGregor Johnson; and her greatgrandchildren Lyra Eileen Koenigsdorf, Noah Jethro Johnson Kenkel and Merritt Vance Koenigsdorf.
Margaret loved all her friends, most especially in the last few years, Shirley Kaiser, Karen Niessen, Cindy Orr, Judy and Lou Ackman and "the Shieldsville ladies," former coworkers with Margaret at the Clothes Closet.
We love you Margaret, Mom, Mimi, GigiMimi; we will always miss you.
Name: Anne Pleskonko
Email: Faribault, MN
Date: Tuesday July 31, 2012
I had the fortunate opportunity to work with Margaret as the FASC Director. I was amazed by her wit, charm, her wonderful sense of humor and zest for life! One of my favorite memories of Margaret is when she came to the Senior Center and said, I have to take you somewhere and we headed down to the Clothes Closet on Central Avenue and watched the men take down that 'icky' pink tin that covered up the facade! We were both so thrilled! Thanks Margaret for that you've done for the Faribault Senior Center AND the community! You definitely left your mark! God's blessings.
Name: Jane Nesseth
Date: Sunday July 29, 2012
Sonja and David- I didn't know your mother, Sonja, but read her obituary and wanted to send my sincere sympathy to both of you and your family. Your mom must have been a wonderful woman; it sounds as if she and your father had a rich and full life and left a legacy of love and cherished memories. I am sorry for your loss. Jane Nesseth
Name: Mary Gay Rogers
Date: Friday July 27, 2012
I will always see Margaret at Kay and BF's stove making the gravy at Thanksgiving...the best!
Name: Jim Koenigsdorf
Date: Wednesday July 25, 2012
I first met Margaret and Dr. Johnson around 1977-1978, about the time that their daughter Kay and my brother Bill were planning to get married. Whenever Margaret came to Kansas City to visit the family, Bill & Kay would always open their home for parties and that's where I really got to know her better and it got to the point where I would always seek her out, trying to get a seat next to her at the dinner table or wherever she would sit. I was surprised to read here that she avoided talking politics as that became our most common topic of conversation. Although she was more of a republican and I am on the opposite side of the aisle, I think we both enjoyed the repartee and we always kept it civil. I will always remember her as a classy lady that adored her family and a great conversationalist with a rich history of experiences to share. She will be missed but never forgotten. Godspeed Margaret
Name: Theresa McNeile
Date: Wednesday July 25, 2012
What a legacy she has left her family! A remarkable woman. I know your family will miss her dearly.
Name: joan and dave nasby
Date: Tuesday July 24, 2012
Your mother, Sonja, was always so pleasant and vibrant. She will be missed by many. joan
Name: Kay Trench
Date: Tuesday July 24, 2012
Sonja and Dave, I always enjoyed seeing Margaret out and about. I just adored her. Kay