Mary Elizabeth Johnson

December 5, 1933April 15, 2018
Play Tribute Movie Play Tribute Movie

Mary Elizabeth (Peterson) Johnson died at home on April 15, 2018, in Bothell, WA due to end stage chronic heart failure. She was 84.

Mary Johnson was born on December 5, 1933, in Seattle, WA, to her immigrant parents, Emma Karlotte and Axel Peterson. Mary was especially close to her mother, Emma who, as a young lady, had left home, Kirkefjorden, a small family village located in the Lofoten Islands, Arctic Norway. She grew up in the Green Lake neighborhood of Seattle, a tight-knit neighborhood close to her Norwegian relatives and friends. In 1952 she graduated from Seattle’s Lincoln High School and soon began work at the former National Bank of Commerce. Her slender frame and good looks also led to modeling on advertising materials for local companies.

Mary wed Michael O’Brien in 1955 and later married Bruce Johnson in 1965. She had four children: Scott, Jeffery, Matthew, and Lisa. Along with her husband Bruce Johnson, Mary moved to Rice, Washington, in the early 1970s. She and Bruce operated a small farm and other businesses. The move was a formative and life-changing experience for Mary, who always considered herself a city girl. In her husband’s absences, while he traveled working as a merchant marine, Mary ran the farm with the help of her children and cared for her mother-in-law, Kathleen Johnson. Mary grew the family’s produce, milked cows, raised chickens, cattle and pigs, and sold eggs, rode motorcycles to keep up with her boys, and proudly supported her daughter Lisa’s horsemanship activities. Life on the farm was not always easy, but Mary happily reflected on escapades with mis-behaving livestock, coffee with neighbors, canning peaches with Kathleen, growing her extensive flower and vegetable gardens (too much squash in the opinion of her boys), and enjoying the chaos of a house full of kids and their friends.

In midlife, Mary moved to Yakima, newly single and ready to learn new skills for modern office work. With the help of her brother, Fredrick, she relocated to a charming house on the hillside overlooking the valley. In 1989, and after receiving vocational training, she began work with the Yakima County Courts where she flourished. Working as a district court clerk was one of the highpoints of her life and she had much to be proud of. Mary was bright, learned fast, and was soon assigned increasing responsibilities, including working on appeals and the criminal dockets. She made many friends and spoke fondly of her coworkers and times at the court. She loved working with the judges, police officers, and attorneys who appeared in court and relished in her role as a wrangler of that unruly lot, she would jokingly reflect. Her work gave her a sense of accomplishment and joy that never left her.

After 18 years of service, Mary retired from the district court and dedicated her time to gardening and spending time with her family and friends. She had dear relationships with many, including close friends and unofficial “kids” Donie and Kris McLeod and their children. Mary was a custodian of family history and documents, providing intricate details of what and when events took place. She gardened for pleasure and became more expert at growing roses. When she became a grandmother, she delighted in seeing her grandchildren playing in and around the rose gardens while her sons rode dirt bikes out back of the house. Her son, Matthew, sought her counsel on cooking and growing all sorts of plants—most recently a cactus from the Nevada desert--and Jeffery grudgingly took guidance on the proper watering schedule for the landscape in his yard.

Mary is survived by her three sons, Scott O’Brien, Jeffery Johnson, and Matthew Johnson; her daughter Lisa Riggs; her brother, Fredrick Peterson; nephews Pete Weaver and Eric Peterson; and nieces Vivian and Britta Peterson and Carin Kruger. Mary also took great pride and joy in being a grandparent to Sean O’Brien, Kyle Johnson, Caitlin O’Brien (Pallasigui), and Erika Johnson, and to great grandparent to Kiara Pallasigui, all of who survive her. She is preceded in death by her much-loved brother, Raymond Peterson, and her nephews Paul Peterson and Chris Peterson.

Mary will be buried at the Floral Hills Cemetery in Lynnwood Washington. A memorial will take place at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, April 22, at Purdy and Walters at Floral Hills. All are welcome to attend and celebrate Mary’s life. Anyone wishing to sit with Mary and have time for quiet reflection may do so at the funeral home between 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.


  • Visitation Sunday, April 22, 2018
  • Funeral Service Sunday, April 22, 2018

Mary Elizabeth Johnson

have a memory or condolence to add?

Lisa Riggs

May 15, 2018

Mom and I in Maui

Lisa Riggs

May 14, 2018

Mary excelled at everything she tried. Here Yakima county Dist court makes her smile , she loved her coworkers .

Lisa Riggs

May 2, 2018

Mary and her daughter were especially close always and Lisa was by her mothers side in 2011 when Drs had given Mary 6 months , Lisa wouldn't give up on her mother and gradually Mary got well .. Lisa and Mary spent all their time together and when mom was
Well enough to go to Maui ! Not once but twice With Lisa . Whenever Lisa was on top of the world , she made sure Mary was included . There was trips ... Planes , train trip to Clackmas and small plane trips to Seaside and so many more with Lisa .Mary was with Lisa until 2015 moving then To Son Jeffs for a few years ,being close to grandchildren as she could. Mary is dearly missed . Alan and Lisa recently brought Mary here to Bothell to their home . She was so excited to be on the farm with all the gardening to do! , Mary and her daughter had never been closer and more in love and excited for the new year together . Mary later died in Alan and Lisa's home surrounded by family .
Mom loved holidays and Family gatherings I pray the family will come together again on a special holiday , mom would be thrilled . All my Love always to my mother , my friend my everything .

Tina Chapman

April 22, 2018

So sorry for your loss. Mary was a wonderful co-worker and friend. So glad Mel and I got to surprise her for lunch in Bellevue thanks to Lisa. Mary always made us laugh. We made her record her infectious laugh so we would always remember all the fun we had together! She thought we were crazy! I will never forget you and the good times we shared at District Court. Rest in peace dear friend. Tina

Michael McCarthy

April 18, 2018

Mary was a wonderful person and a delight to work with. Her skill as a gardener was well known and her knowledge of things floral was a resource we all utilized. May she rest in peace.


Mary, with grandchildren Sean O'Brien, Kyle Johnson, Caitlin O'Brien, and Erika Johnson (lap)


Mary as a small child. Her natural good looks were already evident.


Mary's beloved mother, Emma Karlotte.