Lydia Jeanne Johnson
October 30, 1923 – August 26, 2019
Mrs. Lydia Jeanne Johnson took her last breath on Monday, August 26, 2019, after an afternoon surrounded by her children singing French songs from her own childhood, praying together, and listening to the soothing music of Latin Gregorian chants, classical waltzes, and her favorite Italian singers; her life was celebrated with much laughter and tears.
Born Lydia Jeanne Tarla in Aspach-le-Bas in the Alsace region of France. Lydia Jeanne spent most of her early years in France with her Italian parents and two siblings (Peter and Elsa). Then, moving back and forth between Italy and France for her father’s business and eventually to evade the French and then the Nazis who were intent on capturing her Italian father Gaspard (Gaspare) from Naples and her mother Guiseppina (Josephine) from Nimes in Friuli. Interrupted by the War, she had been working on a degree in languages at the University in Naples being fluent in 5 languages and 3 dialects. She also did accounting for her fathers’ businesses. During the War as young woman, she helped in the hospitals and continued that service into her work with the American Red Cross.
After the War, while on her father’s business trip to Austria she met the dashing young American Army Officer Richard Axel Johnson by a mistake. She was supposed to meet a Lieutenant Johnson, but she was called away early back to France with her parents. So before leaving, she looked in the phone book and found 2 Lieutenant Richard Johnsons. She mistakenly took the address of the wrong Johnson! And by fate, that Johnson enjoyed her French correspondence even after the discovery and hoped she would continue it with him. She sent a beautiful photo and soon, he pulled up to her family’s house in his VW Beetle to pick her up for their first date at the Salzburg castle. It was love at first sight. Their subsequent marriage brought her to a life in the United States where she proudly became a U.S. citizen, an officer’s wife, and mother of 3.
While her beloved Richard was serving his tours of duty, she stayed busy. As President of the Officer’s Wives Club, she organized fundraisers and helped other women as their husbands were deployed. She volunteered with the Red Cross and kept her children in tote through the numerous moves across the country. She learned to swim and completed the 50-miles America Red Cross swim challenge to keep her mind off her husband being away in Vietnam. She also learned to drive their treasured Mercedes on the German Autobahn at speeds unheard of in the States!
Lydia Jeanne lived an active life and when not riding her bike, playing tennis or swimming, could be found creating culinary masterpieces in her kitchen having learned from the best French baker in all of Alsace. She had fun hosting the Officer’s parties with her European yet American classic taste in her décor, cuisine, and fashion. She loved her garden, her pool, and most of all her home. Since a child Lydia Jeanne loved to play, joke around, and laugh a lot. The sweetness of her personality was reflected in her passion for chocolate, which she always had on hand, and always insisted on sharing. An animal lover, she always had a dog, even though the military family moved often. After 20+ years of service in the US Army, ending with a tour in White Sands, New Mexico, the Johnsons retired in El Paso, Texas.
Lydia Jeanne was a devout Catholic having been brought up with the support of the nuns when she was a young girl and teenager. Also, having had the caring support of her and Richard’s priest and the WBAMC chapel community of many years. No ordinary priest, Father Coindreau had been ordained by Lydia Jeanne’s 4th cousin in Rome (an Italian cardinal and potential Pope candidate)! A survivor of many difficult and near-death experiences, Lydia Jeanne pushed through life like she pushed through the PX and Commissary lines! She amazed her longtime and admired cardiologist Dr. David Gough by outliving his pacemaker and pushing on to just 2 months shy of becoming 96 years-young -- telling him she wanted to make it to 120! Her greatest regrets may have been when those difficult times came out in her full Italian passion challenging even the best of families. But through her relationship with the Lord, she was able to live a life of love. This strength in her and her husband found its way into their 3 children. Her greatest challenge came when her beloved Richard came down with dementia. Choosing to leave her treasured home, she stayed with Richard holding each other hands through their stay in memory care for almost 4 years through his death as they slept side by side together.
Lydia Jeanne Johnson leaves a legacy that includes her children (Axel Peter-El Paso, TX, Marie-Annette “Nan”-Boston, MA, Norbert Richard “Norby”-Seattle, WA and his wife Megan) and grandchildren (Dane Richard, Jens Christian, Nils Axel). Having lost just in the last year her brother and her sister-in-law (Edith) in France, and her sister in Florida; she also leaves her nephews and nieces, and close cousins (in France, Italy, and Florida). Her friends will remember her passion for beauty, her elegance, her unique hats, her playfulness, and her dignity. Her children will forever be grateful for instilling in them appreciation for beauty internal and external, her nutritious and delicious meals, her ability to praise and scold in several languages, that wooden spoon, and her eternal love.
A wonderful mother and beautiful wife, Lydia Jeanne Johnson joins her husband, Lt. Col. Richard Axel Johnson, for eternity and leaves a wide hole in our El Paso community and will be missed.
In Lieu of flowers the family requests donations be made to the Humane Society of El Paso in Honor of Mrs. Lydia Jeanne Johnson.
- Marie Annette Johnson, Daughter
- Axel Peter Johnson, Son
- Norbert Richard "Norby" Johnson (Megan), Son
- Mrs. Johnson is also survived by her grandchildren (Dane Richard, Jens Christian, Nils Axel). Having lost just in the last year her brother and her sister-in-law (Edith) in France, and her sister in Florida; she also leaves her nephews and nieces, and close cousins (in France, Italy, and Florida).
- Humane Society of El Paso
- Rosary Thursday, September 5, 2019
- Funeral Mass Thursday, September 5, 2019
- Graveside Service Thursday, September 5, 2019
Lydia Jeanne Johnson
September 4, 2019
Dear Marie-Annette... my deepest condolences on the loss of your lovely mother... what beautiful photos of your parents. Know that I am praying for you at this most difficult time. May God bless you and your family....