Shirley A. Johnson, age 89, of Walcott, ND, passed away on Monday, July 12, 2021, at Sanford Hospice House in Fargo, ND. Visitation will be held on Sunday, July 25, 2021, from 5 pm to 7 pm followed by a 7 pm prayer service at Richland Lutheran Church in rural Walcott. Visitation will continue at the church on Monday, July 26, 2021, from 10 am to 11 am followed by an 11 am funeral service. Pastor Julé Ballinger will officiate the service. Burial will be in Richland Lutheran Cemetery in rural Walcott. Arrangements have been entrusted to Vertin-Munson Funeral Home.
Shirley was born in Hallock, MN on September 30, 1931, to Arthur and Ethel (Nelson) Norman. She was baptized, confirmed and married at Hallock Evangelical Lutheran Church (now Grace Lutheran).
As a child, Shirley worked with her dad on the family farm and helped her mom with the indoor chores. She especially enjoyed riding her pony, June, bareback and holding onto her mane. She graduated from Hallock High School and attended Concordia College, Moorhead, MN, before working at Lutheran Welfare, Fargo in the adoption and foster care programs. She met Lester through his sister Hazel Ann, who also worked there.
Shirley and Lester were married March 8, 1952 and lived on the Johnson farm near Walcott, ND. She was proud of having designed the home that she and Lester built. They celebrated their 69th wedding anniversary this year.
Shirley was active in Countryside Homemakers, was a member of Richland Lutheran Church and the ALCW/WELCA, where she also served as president. She sang alto in the choir, participated in Bible studies, and served on many committees. During church spring cleaning, she was the “tall and brave one” who climbed up the ladder to dust the high ceiling light fixtures. A woman of strong faith, Shirley read her personal devotions every night, and as her eyesight failed, Lester read them to her. She prayed for her family, confident of God’s presence.
Shirley participated in Adult Education, where she enjoyed painting landscapes of their home, farm, winter and Swedish scenes. A natural athlete herself, she was an avid fan of her children’s and grandchildren’s sporting and musical events. She was an amazing seamstress and bread-baker. Her rye bread, butterhorns, oatmeal buns and Swedish Tea Rings were amongst the first to sell at local bake sales. Shirley could do it all, from gardening, canning and mowing, to truck driving and taking meals to the men in the field, all while keeping a clean house and raising five children! She was an amazing organizer, following her lists to the “T”.
Shirley was quite the storyteller, and never seemed to miss a beat whenever she had the opportunity to coin one of her favorite phrases or make puns. When asked her name she would frequently say “I surely am Shirley Ann” and often quipped, “Surely goodness and mercy♫♫.”
Lester and Shirley believed in taking time for “fun,” including family vacations to Medora and Canada and trips to several states, Mexico, Norway, Sweden and 8 trips to France. Shirley was a whiz at crossword puzzles and trivia, and enjoyed playing many games including canasta, farkel, Mexican train dominos and watching “Wheel of Fortune.”
Diagnosed with lung cancer in 2015, Shirley successfully battled the disease until April 2021, when she was assisted by Sanford Hospice care. She kept her witty sense of humor until her passing, reminding the staff that she was a “stubborn Swede,” “too young for coffee” and drank milk “because she was a farmer.”
Shirley was preceded in death by her parents and grandparents and her brother-in-law, Maurice Johnson. She is survived by her beloved husband, Lester, of 69 years, her children Debra (Scot) Hintermeyer, Linda (Robert) Gylland, Gregg (Nancy) Johnson, J. Scott (Carrie) Johnson and Wendy (Andre) Malgouyres, and her sisters Deloris (Richard) Peterson and Bonnie Norman. She was blessed with nine grandchildren: Laura (Emmanuel) Ajibero, Sarah (Jeff) Merriman, Amy (Matt) Lynn, Tyler (Kayla) Gylland, Hanna Johnson, Jon (Carissa) Johnson, Connor (fiancée Crystal) Johnson, Olivia Johnson and Lucy-Mei Malgouyres. Her six great-grandchildren include Bryce and Chloe Gylland, Arabelle and Ivy Johnson, Yanmife Ajibero, and Norah Lynn. She is also survived by her sisters-in-law Marlys (Johnson) Simenson, Hazel Ann (Johnson) Linke and Elaine (Johnson) Fiske, and several extended family members.
Shirley’s family deeply appreciates the kind and considerate care given to her by Dr. Mark Gitau and the staff at RMCC and Sanford Hospice.