Ethel Mae Johnson (Roen), 95, of Reeder, died Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016 at the West River Medical Center in Hettinger.
Ethel Mae Johnson (Roen) was born on Jan. 28, 1921 in Bowman, North Dakota to Henry and Elizabeth Roen. Henry and his brother Neil Roen homesteaded north of Bowman in 1906 when they moved here from the dairy country of Wisconsin. Henry Roen said that he and his brother could never have survived those tough early days without their deep religious faith — it was the strength of their lives. Henry married Elizabeth Kradoville and established a farm and ranch devoted to raising purebred registered Hereford cattle.
Ethel was the fourth of six children born to Henry and Elizabeth. Ethel described having an abundance of love, kindness, laughter and caring in her parent’s home. All of the children in the family were baptized and confirmed in the Lutheran faith, attended Sunday School at the Bowman Lutheran Church and sang in the choir. They were a family who dearly loved music. Ethel’s four brothers were well-known as the “Roen Brothers” quartet and they sang frequently at bull sales and other events for many years. Ethel’s parents believed deeply in hard work, their Christian faith and they had great concern and involvement in their community and government. These are all qualities that Ethel embodied throughout her life.
Ethel graduated from Bowman High School and attended Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota and Dakota Business College in Fargo, North Dakota. Upon graduation, she took a position with the Selective Service Office in Fargo due to the involvement of the U.S. in World War II. Ethel returned to Bowman to help her parents when her mother became ill and then worked for the Bowman County Auditor’s Office
On March 5, 1946 she married Bernard Johnson, the son of Lee and Mathilda Johnson and they moved to the family farm-ranch north of Reeder. She and Bernard had six children and she valued her home and family above all else. Ethel was a truly wonderful cook, baker and gardener. She was an expert at canning fruits and vegetables but the delicacies her children and grandchildren loved the most were her homemade pies, overnight buns and caramel rolls. They were light as a feather and incredibly delicious.
Ethel’s dream of building a new home on the farm was realized in 1959 and her heart always remained in that home. She took great joy in keeping the house and the beautiful gardens she created around it in perfect shape. She worked tirelessly and would never go to bed on a Saturday night until the sheets were ironed, the floors were waxed and she had completed her nightly exercises. Raising her six children was what Ethel loved most in this world and she devoted her lives to them and to her husband in their happy home.
Like her parents, Ethel was also very involved in church and community matters. She and Bernard were active members of the Reeder Lutheran Church where she was a Sunday School teacher for many years and a life-long member of the ALCW and various ladies’ circles. She was a faithful helper at the annual Lutefisk dinner and she enjoyed that Norwegian delicacy every Christmas Eve. Ethel was also a member of the Cedar Creek Homemakers Club. Ethel believed strongly in the need to be informed and involved in local and national politics. She enjoyed political debate, was a stalwart Republican and read newspapers and news magazines daily throughout her life.
When Bernard semi-retired from the ranch in 1975, they moved with their two youngest children, Eva and Brian, to Dickinson, North Dakota where Bernard embraced cattle-buying. Ethel continued her church involvement at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and made many good friends in that community. They returned to Reeder in 1981 where they lived in town for the rest of their lives. Bernard passed away on January 18, 2005 and Ethel remained in Reeder until, due to her failing eyesight, she moved to the West River Assisted Living Apartments in Hettinger in May of 2015. Ethel was always a model of love, courage and dignity throughout her life. She had great poise and wonderful manners. She frequently showed her concern, thanks and happiness for others by mailing handwritten notes that are cherished to this day. She was a constant source of comfort, support and encouragement to her entire family. She will be missed beyond measure.
Left to honor their mother’s life and legacy are son Lee (DiAnne) Johnson of Centennial, Colorado, son Harland Johnson of Reeder, daughter Nancy (Mark) Prellwitz of Plover, Wisconsin, daughter Adele (Mark) Johnson of Wichita, Kansas, daughter Eva (Robert) Wilson of Parker, Colorado and son Brian (Juli) Johnson of Lynn Haven, Florida, twelve grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Ethel was preceded in death by her husband Bernard, her five siblings Chriss Roen, Leland Roen, Glen Roen, Edith (Roen) Holmquist and Robert Roen and two grandchildren Dayle and Melody Ann.
A private graveside service was held shortly after her death in Hettinger. Memorial services are planned for Our Saviors Lutheran Church on Saturday, March 19th at 10:30 am with a luncheon to follow. Everyone is welcome to attend.