Visitation for Wilbur Johnson will be held on Friday, April 20, 2018 from 5 – 7pm at Mundwiler Funeral Home. Funeral services will be held on Saturday, April 21, 2018 at Tabor Lutheran Church in Strandburg, SD at 11:00 am. Interment will take place immediately following the service at Tabor Lutheran Cemetery.
Wilbur Lloyd Johnson was born at the family home in Strandburg on Aug. 19, 1929, the ninth of 10 children of Agnes and Julius Johnson.
He was preceded in death by his parents and siblings, and Marlys Johnson, his wife of 64 years. He is survived by daughters, Carolyn (Pat) Boulay; Lorene (Steve) Hanson; sons Lane (Beverly) Johnson and Neal (Lisa) Johnson; 14 grandchildren & 16 great grandchildren. He leaves a great legacy of love.
Visitation 5-7 Friday, Mundwiler Funeral Home, Milbank, SD. Service at 11 a.m. Saturday, Tabor Church, Strandburg, SD
He loved growing up in Strandburg. You can tell by the photo of him as a barefoot boy with an arm full of apples, happily chomping down on one of them. In those years, he answered to the nickname “Bugs” as easily as to his given name.
In his junior year of high school, he earned $1 a day driving the school bus, which also included him carrying 10 gallons of gas to the bus each morning and driving to all the basketball games. He was also on the basketball team, wrote for the school paper, was student body president and was the editor of the school yearbook, The Moraine, his senior year.
Wilbur earned his spending money by working at miscellaneous jobs. He worked for Nash Finch in Watertown and Minneapolis Moline. He painted farm buildings and helped run the Johnson Service Station in Strandburg. He was a hired man for a number of farmers, one of them being his future father-in-law.
He was an experienced jalopy driver and knew his way around a Model T, from the crank start to setting the spark lever properly. Once, when the fuel pump failed near LaBolt, Wilbur stood on the running board dripping gasoline into the carburetor. His brother Leslie drove (with very limited visibility) the last four miles home.
Wilbur graduated from Strandburg High School and married the love of his life, Marlys Nord, in 1951.
Knowing he would be drafted, Wilbur enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and served on the Korean peninsula repairing aircraft during the war. Shortly after his return he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. He was hospitalized while Marlys was pregnant with Carolyn and remained hospitalized until she was nine months old. Carolyn was born in Denver in 1953 and Mom would stand outside the window of the Veterans hospital holding her up for dad to see.
In 1955, Wilbur trained at the Embry Riddle School of Aviation in Miami, Florida, and Lorene was born. In October 1956, Wilbur went to work for North Central Airlines and bought a home in south Minneapolis. Lane was born in 1957 and Neal in 1959.
Even though he lived in Minneapolis for 29 years, Strandburg was always home. So, in retirement, they built a house at the site of his grandfather’s little house. It was big enough to accommodate all the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. It became the center of all family holidays, receiving frequent visitors during the year.
He had a wonderful retirement. He enjoyed morning coffee downtown with his friends, telling stories, fishing, creating tools, woodworking, and being surrounded by friends and family.
And the grandkids loved to hear about the old days, like how he had to mix chemicals for the radio battery before the town was wired. (Making Strandburg was an early adapter of wireless technology.) Or the one about his big brother’s trick for not getting his pant legs wet in the winter when fetching water in town. (Fill buckets to top. Step into the café until water surface freezes. Walk home with no spills and dry pants.)
If the fish were biting, Wilbur was catching. If they weren’t biting, he was the only one catching. He is reported to have once said upon pulling in a catch, “Not another damn walleye!” The fish in Grant County are safe once more.