Miriam Johnson, 90
Albert Lea — Miriam Johnson, died peacefully at her home in Bancroft Creek Estates, Albert Lea, on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 2008, surrounded by her family and friends. At her insistence and desire for “no fuss when the end comes,” there was only a memorial service for family and friends at her Bancroft Creek Estates home on March 22, 2008. She asked that her body be cremated and the remains be buried beside her husband Ken at Clayton Cemetery, northwest of Bricelyn.
Miriam led an extraordinary life. Born April 22, 1917 in Hudson, S.D., Miriam’s father, Albert Jordan, was a country doctor, practicing first in Hudson and later moving the family to Highmore, S.D. Miriam’s mother, Kathryn (Katie Mae) raised a family of three children, with Burton being Miriam’s older brother and Betty her younger sister. Miriam’s actual name was Ruth Miriam Johnson, a fact pretty much unknown to all, even to her son until he asked as a boy what was her middle name and was told it had always been Miriam. To a very close circle of friends and relatives, she was known as Mimi.
Miriam told many stories of growing up in the depression dust bowl of South Dakota, about the locust swarms, drifts of dirt piling up along fence lines, and the poverty of rural South Dakota. Her father was often paid for his medical service with eggs, chickens and other farm produce.
Miriam graduated from high school and attended the University of South Dakota at Vermillion and later transferred to the University of Minnesota, taking a degree in microbiology. She told the story of getting from Highmore to Minneapolis by riding along with a dray truck, which made weekly trips to Minneapolis. Soon after starting out on the journey, the driver asked her to take over driving, apparently because he wanted to sleep off a high level of intoxication, and so Miriam literally “trucked” her way to the University in the Twin Cities.
With her degree, Miriam went to work for the Minnesota State Board of Health in their laboratories, testing for disease in both human and animal tissue samples that were sent to the lab. She attended a lot of University sports games, telling the story that with a $4.00 student activity ticket, she could go to the football, basketball and all other games for an entire year. She loved football at Memorial Stadium, even when the snow was so heavy on the stadium steps that the students had to crawl to their seats.
In 1946, her friend Millie, talked her into coming with her to Bricelyn to meet a friend of her boyfriend, Harry. Harry was the projectionist at the Unique Theatre in Bricelyn. The theatre was owned by Ken Johnson, who had just returned from serving in the South Pacific during the Second World War. Harry asked Ken if he’d like to go on a blind date after the theatre closed. Ken resisted, knowing he’d be tired after all the work at the theatre, but Harry prevailed, to which the rest of the Johnson family would be forever grateful. Miriam and Ken were married October 12, 1948 and to that union was born their only child, Scott, in 1950.
By this time Ken had also purchased the Bricelyn Mutual Telephone Company from his grandfather, Albert Wilcox, and installed his new wife as office manager and telephone switchboard operator responsible for billing customers, taking payments, taking complaints and running the day to day office, all out of her own kitchen, while Ken and his crew built and maintained the wires, cables, switchboard and telephone plant on the outside. As Ken and Miriam expanded their telephone business by buying the farmer’s lines and taking over the Frost and Freeborn telephone exchanges, Miriam not only worked the switchboard in Bricelyn, but also in the towns of Frost and Freeborn until dial service was installed. The telephone office continued in her kitchen until 1983, wen she and Ken retired. They subsequently traveled and wintered in Florida, and after Ken’s death in 1997, Miriam continued to spend her winters in Florida, hosting grandkids and friends.
Miriam and Ken loved to travel, and their journeys together took them many places the western world had little experienced, including Russia and China in the 1970’s and 1980’s when those countries were pretty much closed to foreigners. They would take their grandkids on “road trips,” an excuse to spend a few days with them individually, dispensing grandparent’s advice and spoiling them at the same time.
As Miriam said just a few weeks ago, she is preceded in death by just about every one of her friends and relatives. More importantly, she is survived by and loved by her son and his wife, Scott and Loretta; her grandchildren, Aaron and his wife Kris, Jesse and his wife Pum, and Matt and his special friend Heidi; her great grandchildren Jordan (Matt), Brenna, Brett and Brittyn (Aaron).
She will be missed dearly for her apple pie, her filled cookies and her holiday meals, which were just excuses to get together with family and friends and extend her uncompromising love.
Arrangements by the Bruss-Heitner Funeral Home in: Wells – Bricelyn.