Over the last few weeks, Helen kept saying, “I am so proud of our family. We have a good family, and you need to tell all of them how much they are loved.” Helen Johnson’s love of everyone was repeatedly spoken up to the end of her beautiful life. She made it to 100 years old and made sure everyone knew by saying, “You know, I am 100!” Helen earned her angel wings on April 8, 2021. Her Funeral Service will be held on Saturday, April 17, 2021 at 1:00 PM at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Fairfield, MT with Burial to follow at St. Paul Cemetery.
Mary Helen Johnson was born in Great Falls, MT on September 8, 1920 to Fred and Eva Holyoak. She was the first of ten children. Helen moved around as a child while her parents farmed. She spent time in Riebeling, MT, Cascade area, Great Falls, Chestnut Valley, Riverdale, MT and Power, MT. Along the way, Helen’s brothers and sisters joined the family. They include Harold (deceased), Opal, Stew (deceased), Gene (deceased), Charlotte, Susie (deceased), Bob, Shirley, and Lee. Helen has fond memories of irrigation ditches from her childhood. Irrigation ditches remained a staple in our family for many years. They were a place where memories were made, and the laughter and squeals of children rang loudly every summer for several decades.
When they had moved to Power, Helen started dating her neighbor, Melvin (Mel) Johnson, and they were married in Great Falls on November 30, 1940. She remembered their first date fondly as it was when they attended the President’s Ball in Power. It was a cold January night in 1938, and that was where their love of dancing began. Helen danced well into her 80’s and could not hold her feet still if any style of Polka music could be heard! Helen and Mel knew all of the hopping spots to dance including Power, the Norwegian Hall in Fairfield, Semingson’s in Fort Shaw, the Sun River Hall (with wagon springs under the floor) and two dance halls in lower Sun River. In the 50’s, Helen and Mel joined a square-dancing class and could be found at the Moose or Eagles Lodges as well as the 45+ club in Great Falls on most weekends.
Helen and Mel began their life of farming together in Power, MT and had two children. Neal Johnson of Great Falls was born on November 5, 1941 and Karen (Hanson) of Billings was born on August 19, 1943. It was also during this time that Helen’s sister, Shirley and brother, Lee, were born. It was shortly after that when Helen purchased her first sewing machine and began sewing for the family, as clothes were hard to get during the war. She loved sewing and had quite the gift for doing it perfectly. Another gift that Helen had was making bread and rolls. One cherished memory is that of Helen making the dough for her bread and the smell of that bread filling the air at the house. Karen and Neal knew that meant there was also enough dough left for a pan of caramel cinnamon rolls. To this day, Karen’s measure of a good cinnamon roll is how it measures up to “Mom’s” rolls, and very few rolls stand a chance!
Helen said goodbye to her beloved husband, Mel, when he passed away of cancer on December 8, 1982. They were married for 42 years. She spent much of her time the following years with her family including her grandchildren. Neal and Ruth had a son, Kurt Johnson of Power, and a daughter, Tanya Johnson of Fort Collins, CO. Karen and Dick Hanson had two daughters, Michelle Morgan of Billings and Nicole Rice of Sheridan, WY. Helen was dearly loved by her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Isaiah Rice, Aidan and Kaylee Morgan, Ruqaiya Siddiqui, Harper and Khloe Johnson, and Lane and Josey Hinderager.
Helen’s favorite pastimes included quilting, crocheting, and knitting afghans and prayer shawls. Helen moved off the farm to Great Falls in October of 2001, and that is when Kurt purchased the house. Helen remained in Great Falls and made many new friends during her stay at The Lodge Senior Living community. She just loved people. As we all used to say, Helen never met a stranger, only a new friend.
Helen is survived by her children, Neal (Ruth) Johnson of Great Falls, MT, Karen (Dick) Hanson of Billings, MT; siblings, Opal Barnwell, Charlotte Brady, Bob Holyoak, Shirley (Dave) Kidd, and Lee (Mary) Holyoak; grandchildren, Michelle Morgan, Nicole Rice, Tanya Johnson (Yusuf Siddiqui) and Kurt (Stephani) Johnson and many great-grandchildren.
Years ago, Helen lovingly typed out her family story and made copies for her children and grandchildren. It is an absolute treasure to have her words on paper – what a gift. Her final two sentences sum up her love of family and life. “I marvel that over all these years and so many people involved, there has never been a rift or squabble among us. It has been a blessed and good life.” Now, Helen can continue that good life of happiness and peace as she shares endless waltzes and polkas in heaven with Mel.
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