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Lena Esther Johnson
(March 26, 1918 - March 16, 2013)

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Lena Esther Johnson

U.S. Veteran

Lena Esther Josucks Johnson was born on March 26, 1918, in Belfield, North Dakota, to Flora O’Tillie Thomas and Edward Otto Josucks. She lived on a farm about five miles outside of the small town of Fryburg, ND. Her neighbors were settlers from Poland, the Ukraine, Norway, and Germany. People who lived in the area depended on each other for survival. Parents of the children Johnson grew up with spoke the native languages of their home countries; either the parents or grandparents were immigrants, as was Johnson’s father, Edward. Johnson often said that she was lucky growing up on a farm during the Great Depression because they always had something to eat. Religion was an important part of community life. “Esther Lena Josucks” and her sister Gertrude were received into full communion with St. Peter’s Lutheran Church of Belfield, ND, on November 19, 1933, by Henry J. Weslloh, Pastor. Johnson attended school in Fryburg, ND; her fourth grade teacher was her future sister-in-law, Geraldine Johnson Nelson. During her next school year Johnson won the state spelling contest for fifth graders. Johnson graduated from Fryburg High School in 1936. She was recognized as the highest achieving student of her school, and was awarded two partial scholarships. Unfortunately, she was not able to use the scholarships because of the poor economy. In order to earn money for college, at age 18, Johnson took the state teachers’ exam. High school graduates were able to teach elementary school for two years on a provisional certificate. Johnson taught in a one-room country school with children from grades one through eight; she rode a horse to work. With the $45.00 a month salary, Johnson, paid $15.00 a month for room and board, and saved the rest of the money. After two years, she had saved enough to be able to go to the teachers’ college in Dickinson, ND, the closest school to her home. Johnson completed the two-year standard curriculum at the State Normal School in Dickinson; she was awarded a diploma in 1939, and issued a Second Grade Professional Certificate from the Department of Public Instruction, State of North Dakota. She taught school in Strasburg, ND, the home town of Lawrence Welk; his music remained her favorite throughout her life. During WWII, Johnson joined the U.S. Navy. Her older sister, Gertrude Josucks, suggested they join the U.S. Army together. Johnson said she would join the service, but only if they chose the U.S. Navy because she liked the Navy blue uniforms better than the Army green. She and Gertrude were sent to U.S. Naval Air Station (NAS), Ottumwa, Iowa, where they were trained to teach beginning pilots how to use instrument panels in flying. They were among the specially trained enlisted WAVES who gave instruction in Link, a “synthetic training” program which enabled Naval aviators to learn fundamental techniques of cross-country navigation and blind” flying by instrument without having to leave the ground. Johnson left the service with a rating of Specialist (T) (LT), First Class Petty Officer. After the war, Johnson went to live with her sister Margaret and her brother-in-law Roy Strauch, in Tacoma, Washington, and enrolled at the University of Washington in Seattle, WA. She reunited with Zach, a childhood friend, who was taking Latin at the University of Washington. Zach and Esther were married on July 7, 1946, at the Immanuel Lutheran Church in Seattle, WA. The Johnsons took a honeymoon trip by car through Washington, Oregon, California and New Mexico before moving to Grand Forks, ND, where Zach attended the University of North Dakota. Housing was scarce because of the number of service men and women going back to school, so the Johnsons lived in a one room trailer for the entire two years. Their first child, Beverly, was born in Grand Forks. The family then moved to Denver, Colorado, and stayed in army housing where Zach completed his last two years of medical school. Esther was awarded a “Putting Hubby Through” (PHT) certificate at Zach’s graduation. Following a year in Glendive, Montana, where their second child, Mary, was born, the Johnsons moved to Salmon, Idaho, in 1952. Their sons, Zach Jr. and Jerome, and youngest daughter Jennifer were born in Salmon. Johnson became very involved with the community life in Salmon. She joined the Methodist Church and taught children’s Sunday school and Vacation Bible School for many years as well as serving on several church committees. She enjoyed card parties with friends and belonged to several bridge clubs. She was active in the Elk’s Auxiliary and with the Anna Rebekah Lodge. She and her husband served as co-presidents of the Salmon Parent-Teacher Association. During this time she was active with the committee that raised funds to build a swimming pool on the Island Park where her children learned to swim. The pool has been covered and is used as a skate board park today. Johnson volunteered as a den mother for Cub Scouting with the Boy Scouts of America when her sons were Cub Scout age. She stayed involved with scouting through the years and both of her sons achieved the rank of Eagle, as did her four grandsons. Johnson also worked with Almira Capps as an assistant leader with the Busy Beavers 4-H Club for many years; one of the many projects Busy Beavers were involved in every year was planting flowers in the large triangle median that used to greet people coming into Salmon on US Route #93. In later years, Esther appreciated her time with the Laureate Lambda Chapter of Beta Sigma Phi, a social and service organization. Following her husband’s retirement, she and Zach enjoyed traveling in their RV throughout the United States. She had also had wonderful memories of trips to Scandinavia, Europe, the Far East, Egypt and Turkey, the Caribbean and Australia. Johnson also organized fun and educational family reunions for her children and grandchildren through the years including places such as Death Valley, Disneyland, Victoria, the Grand Canyon, and Yellowstone Park. Johnson was predeceased by her daughter Jennifer Leigh and her husband of 66 years, Zach A. Johnson; her parents Edward and “Tillie” Josucks; her sisters, Lisa, Margaret, Agnes, Gertrude, Lorena and Freya; and, her brothers, Edward and Fredrick. She is survived by her children, Beverly Barrett (Mike), Mary Borah, Zach Johnson Jr. and Jerome “Jerry” Johnson (Marci); her grandchildren, David Barrett (Lauren), Stephen Barrett, Jennifer Barrett, Zach Borah (Crystal), Matthew Borah, Jenna Esther Johnson and Jada Marie Johnson; and her great granddaughter, Paige Noelle Borah. Esther Johnson 94 years of age, passed away Saturday, March 16, 2013 in Boise, Idaho. Funeral services will be held on Saturday, March 30, 2013 at 10:30 a.m. at the United Methodist Church with Reverend Stillman Bond officiating. Burial will be in the Salmon Cemetery with Military Honors provided by the Idaho Honor Guard and the American Legion Lloyd Shaw Post #67. Arrangements are under the direction of the Jones & Casey Funeral Home of Salmon, Idaho. The family suggests memorial contributions be sent to: ¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬the Alzheimer's Association, P.O. Box 96011, Washington, DC 20090-6011; the Lemhi County Historical Museum, 210 Main Street, Salmon, Idaho 83467; the Salmon Public Library, 204 Main Street, Salmon, Idaho 83467; or the Salmon United Methodist Church, 201 Lombard Street, Salmon, Idaho 83467.


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