Our beloved grandma, mom, wife, sister and friend, Katherine “Kathy” Ann Johnson, of Dixie, Idaho, passed away unexpectedly at her home Monday, Feb. 22, 2021.
Mom was born Aug. 13, 1949, in Renton, Wash., to John and Bernice (Jean) Anderson. She graduated from Langley High School in 1967. Shortly after, she graduated from beauty school. She worked for her parents at the Whidbey Marina, delivering parts. She also managed two local taverns, the Dog House and JJ’s. It was here that Mom began her lifelong journey of service, giving back to others.
She married Larie Lange on Feb. 14, 1969, and had their daughter, Brenda. On Jan. 23, 1981, she married the love of her life, Ellsworth Johnson, and gained a bonus son, Richard “Rik” Johnson. They moved from Whidbey Island, Wash., to the mountains of Dixie, Idaho, that same year.
In partnership with Chuck and Sally Johnson, and later Jerry and Skip Roberts, they purchased the town of Dixie, which included the restaurant, bar, motel, cabins, the local store and the old gas pumps. She welcomed everyone through offerings of delicious food and drink, a clean place to stay, supplies from the store, friendly conversation and served as the Dixie postmaster. Under this partnership, Dixie became a place known for “race weekend,” fondue nights, themed dinners and pinochle tournaments. She touched the lives of many visitors, as well as friends and neighbors. In 1984, the family made the move to Lewiston.
Once in Lewiston, Mom decided to get a “part-time” job so that she could keep herself busy (of course), while Ells continued working construction in Alaska. This “part-time” job turned into a full-time management career of 20 years at JoAnn Fabrics, where she continued to serve people through her passion for sewing and quilting.
In 1986, she and Ells moved to Reubens, Idaho. Mom kept her job at JoAnn’s in Clarkston, commuting back and forth. Once again, driven by her love of service to the communities in which she lived, Mom held the office of mayor of Reubens for four years. She was also a member of the local church, and shared her talents at the Grange.
After Mom retired at the age of 55, she and Ells returned to the place they loved, Dixie. Most who knew her would agree that she was one the busiest “retired” people they knew. She became a board member on the High Country Snowmobile Club, assisted with the annual Fourth of July auction, as well as the activities for Dixie Days. She joined the Sew Help Me quilt group in Elk City, and later the Fabric Miners in Dixie. She was the “go-to gal” for anyone who needed local information, advice, fabric, food, clothing or supplies.
Mom’s favorite roles, however, was being “Gramma at the cabin” and a “Dixie Chick.” She loved hosting family and friends at the cabin, making every holiday special and full of love. Being a Dixie Chick included creek sittin’, critter feeding, swimming and lunch at Red River Hot Springs, Ladies and Soup on Wednesdays at the Dixie Community Center, mail days and Friday happy hours. She had a deep interest in local history and was a “Jeopardy!” fanatic, being the “home” winner of many episodes. She enjoyed watching the Seahawks and NASCAR. She loved writing in the Dixie Idaho Community Group Facebook blog, where she reported weather and Dixie “happenings” every day to more than 900 people.
While talking and sharing our memories about Mom, we found a sticker in her drawer that summed up her feelings about her home, and where she lived:
“If we have to tell you why we live in Dixie, Idaho
you wouldn’t understand
Elevation 5,600 ft
One Mile Closer to Heaven.”
Mom is survived by her husband, Ells Johnson; her daughter, Brenda (Tim) Taylor, of Lewiston; her bonus son, Rik (Lynn Poelstra) Johnson, of Spokane; two grandchildren, Karli Taylor and Rebecca (Grant) Whitaker; her brother, Steve Anderson, and her niece, Kristy Anderson, from West Port, Wash.; her sister-in-law, Elizabeth (Dale) Sherman, from Whidbey Island; and many, many cherished friends.
She was preceded in death by her parents; her mother and father-in-law, Bernice and Herb Gildow; her sister-in-law, Cathy Anderson; and several beloved Dixie friends.
No formal services will be held, but we are planning a celebration of life in Dixie on Memorial Day. In lieu of flowers, and because she treasured her community, if you wish to make a memorial in her name, it can be sent to the Dixie Community Center.