Donald Eugene Johnson was born on September 17, 1924 in Smolan, Kansas to Earl B. Johnson and Esther H. (Stilley) Johnson. While growing up, Don’s mother played the piano and taught all three of her children to play various instruments and to sing. During the depression years, the Johnson family moved to California where Don played in the high school band and held first chair in the trombone section. Don was always able to find a paying job. In California, it was a paper route where he was consistently on time and with tips, earned more money every month than his father Earl earned working in the fields. The money that Don earned helped to support and feed the family. Music was always a part of his life. He enjoyed big band swing music, marching bands and military band concerts. He was very proud of grandson Grant Goodwin who played the trombone in high school.
After graduating from Smolan High School in 1942, Don relocated to Randall, Kansas, where he met Edith Abram. They were married December 24, 1944. Three children were born of this union; Danny, Bob and Linda. When Danny and Bob were 3 and 1, the family farm homestead was destroyed by a devastating tornado on the night of October 1949. After frantically looking for both little boys they were found in the surrounding fields unharmed but frightened. Don ran and walked barefoot to the neighbors for help while Edith stayed with the boys in a sheltered area of the barn that was still standing. This traumatic experience was forever etched in Don’s memory.
Going south to harvest wheat in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas was a favorite summer activity in the 60s and 70s and he never tired of telling stories about the many “adventures” he had while harvesting wheat.
Don was the manager of the Coop Elevator in Randall for several years and enjoyed farming with his son Danny after working hours. Don always like car racing and his son Bob Johnson had the perfect hobby – car racing. Don went to as many races as he could and was always eager for the next one.
As a lover of dogs, Don had a constant companion, a cocker spaniel named Happy. They enjoyed each other and the drives to entertain Happy may have been short but they were most entertaining.
By the 70s, Don and Edith were blessed with seven grandchildren. Life was good and they both were feeling complete with their happy family. In the late 70s, tragedy descended on the Don Johnson family; Edith was diagnosed with cancer. Sadly, after a long and brave battle with cancer, Edith passed away in July of 1979.
On May 31, 1981, Don married Bertha B. (Weaver) Winkel. The couple was married for 36 years; spending 20 years in Mitchell County and the last 16 years in Topeka up until the time of his death on Sunday, May 20, 2018. Don was welcomed to the Winkel family by Bertha’s five children, Kathy, Joe, John, Joleen and Joyce. During the marriage with Bertha, Don worked as a Rural Mail Carrier in various Cities in Kansas, and worked at Shawnee Wholesale. Don transported cars across Kansas and surrounding states. He loved buying and selling cars and was often looking for the next great deal. Every time a grandchild needed a school car, Grandpa Don was the elected broker. He was good at picking out bargains. One car he located ended up with over 300,000 miles before it was too tired to keep up with the grandchild.
Don and Bertha loved to garden and can what their harvest reaped. One summer Don planted several varieties of squash; they grew like magic to cover the 30’ x 30’ area. The crop was prolific. Towards the end of the summer, Don ventured to the garden one morning to see all the vines wilted and sapped of life; an invasion of beetles had worked all night to destroy the plants. The plants had matured and there were bushel baskets of various varieties that he harvested and attempted to give away to neighbors in Glen Elder. Don and Bertha spent many weekends making jams, canning fruit as well as freezing corn grown by John. Don and Bertha traveled to numerous states on vacation during their marriage and welcomed many grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Up until August of 2017, when Don fell and broke his hip, he enjoyed working in the yard, buying and selling cars, driving Dolly and Daisy around and always enjoyed the family gatherings for birthdays and holidays with all the home cooked food. He made sure his furry friends had a taste of that home cooked food too, despite the fact that he knew he would get caught giving them a sample or two.
Don never met a stranger and could strike up a conversation with anyone. He was a lover of dogs and had three that were particularly special to him; Happy, Daisy and, most recently, Dolly. He would often take Daisy and Dolly with him to run errands and from time to time when asked where he was going he would respond, “Just taking Daisy or Dolly for a ride.”
Don is survived by Bertha Johnson of Topeka; sister, Maxine Kissinger, Beloit; children, Danny Johnson of Topeka; Linda and Larry Goodwin, Boulder, Colorado; stepchildren, Kathy Torr, Topeka; Joe and Marcia Winkel, Glen Elder; John and Julie Winkel, Glen Elder; Joleen and Jeff Nuss, Topeka and Joyce McDanel, Norwalk, Iowa. Don is also survived by many beloved nieces, nephews, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Don was preceded in death by his mother and father, Earl and Esther Johnson; wife, Edith; brother, Keith Johnson; son, Bob; granddaughter, Amy Robbins; step grandson, Jerrod Nuss; step grandson, Corey Winkel.
Funeral Services will be at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 26, 2018 at the Randall Community Church in Randall, Kansas. Visitation will precede the services starting at 9 a.m. at the church. Burial will follow at Randall Cemetery. Memorials may be made to the Midland Hospice or Peggy Kelly House. In care of Schoen Funeral Home and Monuments, Beloit. Online condolences to schoenfhm.com.
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