Mildred McKenzie Johnson

September 8, 1918September 18, 2015
Obituary of Mildred McKenzie Johnson
Mildred McKenzie Johnson Mildred “Millie” McKenzie Johnson (97) cherished mother, grandmother, great grandmother and aunt, passed away in her sleep on September 18, 2015, in Cle Elum, Washington. Born at home on the North Dakota prairie near Dogden Butte on September 8, 1918, she was a woman quietly and persistently ahead of her time. Her parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles were part of the Scottish migration that came through Canada into the mid-west. Most of her family had moved to Washington State, specifically Spanaway near Tacoma, during the great depression of the 1930s. Graduating from Lincoln High School (Tacoma), Millie found herself working as a maid and caregiver in 1937 within view of the University (College) of Puget Sound and her dream of a college education was born. Working for a year to earn her tuition, and with a little help from her brother Bill, she had enough tuition money to begin in 1938. Mentored and encouraged by Martha Pearl “Teach” Jones, Millie became an active participant in the Campus Playcrafters, graduating from the University of Puget Sound in 1942 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Speech. World War II and a dance at Spanaway Lake shaped Millie’s life direction. Millie met her soon-to-be husband, Willard Henry Johnson (1917-1997) just as she had graduated and had also signed a contract to teach High School English & Spanish at Battleground, Washington. In 1942-43, Millie taught school and Willard graduated from the University of Washington. In March 1943 they married; Willard served in the Army; and after the war they settled in Browns Point, Washington. Raising three children, Mary Cecil (Johnson) James, Janet Gail (Johnson) Aliseo, and Willard H. "Will" Johnson Jr. Millie’s extraordinary intelligence and creativity showed in how she cared for her family as well as how she chose to serve the community. Millie was elected PTA President for Browns Point Elementary School, and directed the annual PTA Talent Follies during late 1950s. She was an active participant in the Girl Scouts Summer Day Camp, bringing drama and story-telling activities to the participants. During the 1950s Millie began writing poetry that was published in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Washington Verse, and the Tacoma News Tribune. In 1975 she collected her poetry into a book, Lost Flamingos, which family and friends treasure for her lyrical descriptions of "prairie lives" in North Dakota, and the human gift of meeting the challenge of living in "austere [physical and emotional] environments." In 1956, Millie returned to teaching English and Social Studies at Stewart Middle School in Tacoma. She especially enjoyed connecting students to the musicality of language spoken aloud. In 1959, following her husband to Palmer, Alaska, on a new adventure, Millie drove the ALCAN Highway with her 10 year old son, two teenage daughters, a nephew to help with the driving and one large dog in a Willys Jeep station wagon. Once in Alaska, Millie began a twenty-year commitment as editor of the Frontiersman, a weekly newspaper. She was respected in the community for her accurate reporting, entertaining features, friendly disposition, and impeccable proofreading—pre-computers and spell check! Leaving there, she taught speech classes at University of Alaska/Matanuska-Susitna Community College in the late 1970s and into the 1980s and was honored for that service in 1989. At home, Millie was a wonderful mom and cook: there were always cookies within reach and she made a raspberry pie “to die for.” She read to her children, encouraged them to read, and provided a house full of books and magazines. She loved to garden and preserve the bounty. Because of her active interest in gardening, Millie’s long years of volunteering as secretary for the Alaska State Fair board were recognized by their permanently naming the annual experimental garden exhibit “Millie’s Garden.” In her “spare” time Millie displayed her talent as a craftswoman and seamstress, tailoring clothing for all her family members. As she neared retirement, Millie’s leisure time included boating. She particularly loved Valdez, Alaska, and Prince William Sound, which she and Willard explored on their boat, the Arctic Loon. Both Millie and Willard joined the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary, participating in many activities, including the Vessel Safety program. They generously hosted family and friends on extraordinary trips that included fishing, crabbing, shrimping, and most notably being immersed in the beauty of a place where the Chugach Mountains surround the sea. Generosity has been the hallmark Millie’s life, and with Willard, she shared their home for many events such as New Year’s parties for friends, hosting delegations for Palmer’s Sister City of Saroma, Japan, and a 40th year reunion party for the Palmer High School Graduating Class of 1962. Millie moved to Ellensburg in 2004 to enjoy more time with her family. Even in her last days, Millie was a cheerful, kind spirit. Mildred is survived by her children: Janet (partner Jim Murphy) Aliseo, Roslyn; Will (Cindy) Johnson, Ellensburg; and Mary James, Toppenish; grandchildren and great-grandchildren: Laura (Neil) Gutenberg and their children Josh, Ben and Cara Gutenberg, North Bend; Kirsten James and her life partner, Paul Dunn, United Kingdom; Kym Tennessen (life partner of grandson Joseph A. Aliseo) and sons, Aydin Aliseo, Hawken (Kayla) Downs, and Ryon Downs; nephew: Frank Masteller, Scottsdale, AZ; grandniece: Julie (Michael) Garcia, Lake Stevens, WA; and cousin: Bill (Gail) Fischer, Canada. Millie was preceded in death by her husband, Willard H. Johnson, her grandsons: David Henry Aliseo and Joseph A. Aliseo Jr., her parents John and Mary (Cummings) McKenzie, and all of her siblings: William McKenzie, Agnes McKenzie, Ruth Masteller, and Duncan McKenzie; niece: Agnes (Masteller) Colby; and cousins: Shirley A. Griesbach and Barbara Jean (Griesbach) Cooke. A graveside memorial service will be held on Sunday, September 27, 2015 at 2 pm at the IOOF Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Hospice Friends. The family wishes to thank the Belair House Adult Family Home for the loving home environment they provided and their truly wonderful care.

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Sunday, September 27, 2015

Graveside Memorial