Celia Frances “Fran” Johnson completed her last shift surrounded by her children and grandchildren Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019, in the Bishop Place memory care unit in Pullman.
Frances was born Jan. 7, 1930, in Rockland, Mass., to Ethel (Kelly) Egan and Charles Henry Egan. She spent her formative years in and around the Boston area.
Frances enrolled in nursing school immediately after graduating high school. She graduated from the Massachusetts General Hospital School of Nursing in 1951. It was that vocation into which she poured the sum total of her life’s work. She joined the U.S. Navy immediately upon graduation. Ensign Egan served her country proudly and spoke often of her years caring for veterans of the Korean War. Sadly, Frances was present as the sole attendee at the passing of many of our fighting men. She held their hand and comforted them as they passed into eternal glory. Frances proudly said, “No American fighting man ever died alone on my shift.” She was a proud, proud veteran who shed tears every time she heard the national anthem, because it brought to mind memories of “her boys” and the sacrifice they made for our country.
While serving her country, Frances met her husband, naval surgeon, CDR USN, John David Johnson, of Lead, S.D. Fran, per naval rules at the time, had to resign her lieutenant’s commission in the Navy shortly after the wedding. John and Frances traveled the world, going wherever John’s duty took them. Together, they brought three children into the world. They divorced in 1969.
In 1970, having raised the kids to school age, Frances returned to nursing. She worked as an emergency room nurse and nursing supervisor at Bess Kaiser Hospital in Portland, Ore. She, at the same time, went back to school and over the next many years, while working full time, earned her master’s and then her doctorate of education. She completed her working years as a professor of nursing at the University of Portland. Frances trained many hundreds of nurses in her career. She had a reputation as a firm, fair taskmaster with patience and acumen, but one who possessed little to no tolerance for shoddy effort or dedication to task from her students.
Frances lived an active life. At any given time, you could’ve found her either downhill or cross-country skiing, sitting in the grandstands behind home plate rooting for the Portland Beavers, watching a rodeo in cowboy country, running the rapids of a raging river, sea kayaking off the coast of New Zealand, golfing the links of Lake Oswego Municipal Golf Course, hiking the trails of the Columbia Gorge or volunteering at the Portland Zoo.
She was a proud Irish woman who loved a glass of good bourbon and any Irish song. She was a patron of the arts who held season tickets to the Oregon symphony and attended live theater regularly. Her dazzling blue Irish eyes were her most striking feature. They burned like lasers or twinkled like mischief-borne stars depending on her mood. She wasn’t much for rules and firmly believed it was only speeding if you got caught.
Frances was preceded in death by her sister, Rae Tally, of Florida, and her eldest son, J. Douglas Johnson, of Portland. She is survived by her son, Mark (Tauna) Johnson, of Moscow; her daughter, Sheila (Lino) Vitale, of Costa Mesa, Calif.; and her two grandchildren, Tori Len Johnson, of Queen Creek, Ariz., and Nolan David Johnson, of Sandpoint, Idaho.
The family would like to thank Rebecca Lawton and her team in Memory Care at Bishop Place in Pullman for the compassionate care they provided our mother throughout the years she was with you. You do the work of angels. God bless you all.
A memorial service with full military honors will be held for Frances at 14:30 hrs (2:30 p.m.) Oct. 25 at Willamette National Cemetery in Portland, Ore. A reception will follow at the home of David and Joanne Haynes in Lake Oswego, Ore.
Kimball Funeral Home of Pullman has been entrusted with arrangements. Online condolences may be sent to www.kimballfh.com.