Helen May Johnston closed her earthly eyes in death and opened them in Glory in the early morning hours of Friday, September 17, 2021 at the age of 91. She was surrounded by her son, daughter, and daughter-in-law at her home in Rush City. She battled ovarian cancer like “a tough old Swede” for two years.
Helen was born to Ernest and Ida (Christianson) Dahl in her family home at East Rock Creek on May 4, 1930. She shared her childhood with her brothers Vernard and Wendell and her sister Lillian, growing up on the farm their Swedish grandparents built and tended. Helen was educated at McKay School and Rush City High School, where she graduated in 1948 with her best friend Torry Johnston. After graduating from high school, she endured a three-day memorable career at the Rush City hospital, and longer tenures at the Rush City Bakery (where she didn’t make enough dough), the Rush City Locker (where she occasionally had to hold the rope for the ill-fated animals), and a short stint at Finger Hut. From 1960 to 1987 Helen worked as accounts manager at Peoples Natural Gas first in Rush City and then in Pine City. A persuasive saleswoman, she was named the top seller for appliances in the district at least four times, winning weekend trips to the Twin Cities and Brainerd where she and her daughter attended various theatre performances and sporting events.
Helen was married to Glen Archie Johnston on July 3, 1954 near Fort Chaffee, AR where Glen was stationed while serving in the United States Army during the Korean Conflict. After marriage Helen moved to the Johnston family farm. She and Glen operated the family dairy until his retirement in 1989. Helen loved to help with farm chores, especially feeding the calves. She was an avid gardener, raising vegetables, berries, and flowers. She canned and froze enough vegetables, jams, and jelly to feed her family and friends. She enjoyed sewing for her children and embroidering dish towels and pillowcases that she often gave as gifts. She and Glen loved to travel. They visited each of the lower 48 states and Helen purchased state plates and other souvenirs from each one to commemorate their travels.
After the death of her husband in 2001 she sold the family farm and in 2004 she moved to a new home in Rush City. She decorated her home with teddy bears, which gave her great joy and comfort. She also had collections of tea cups and pots, thimbles, ceramic birds and pigs, and decorative plates. She loved to play board and card games. She was a ruthless Skip-Bo player. She loved to eat out, especially at the Kaffe Stuga in Harris.
Helen was the mother of Terry Lee and Debra Anne. They were the light and love of her life. She cared for them throughout their lives and they cared for her in her final days, so that she could remain in the comfort of her home. She was immensely proud of their accomplishments and maintained close relationships with them. She adored her granddaughters Terilyn Lee Johnston Huntington and Joyanne Jennifer Johnston and her three great-grandsons Bennett, Declan, and Fletcher Huntington.
Helen was an active member of the Rush City community. She was a faithful member of First Lutheran Church in Rush City, serving as Sunday school treasurer for over twenty years. She belonged to the church quilters, Women of the ELCA, and did many administrative tasks for the church. She belonged to several community women’s groups including: the Red Hat Ladies, Christian Women’s Club, and the Rush City Women’s club. Every Friday Helen met with friends at the Rush City Bakery for coffee, a roll, and great conversation.
The last surviving member of her family, Helen was preceded in death by her husband of 47 years Glen Johnston; parents Ernest and Ida Dahl; siblings Vernard Dahl, Wendall Dahl, and Lillian Hjelm; brothers-in-law Kenneth Hjelm, William Niskanen, and John Lyle Johnston; sisters-in-law Betty May Johnston, Arlene Dahl, Luverne Johnston, and Deloris Johnston; nephew John Niskanen.
Helen is mourned by her surviving relatives: son, Rev. Dr. Terry (Lynda) Johnston of Indiana, PA; daughter, Debra Anne Johnston of Rush City; granddaughter, Dr. Terilyn (Paul) Johnston Huntington of Indiana, PA; granddaughter, Joyanne Johnston of Columbia Heights; great-grandsons Bennett, Declan, and Fletcher Huntington; sister-in-law Florence Niskanen of Athens, WI; brother-in-law Del (Charlotte) Johnston of White Bear Lake; special friends Cindy Christensen and Evyn Weston of Rush City; numerous nieces and nephews and many devoted friends.
Helen’s life will remembered and celebrated through visitation and reviewal on Tuesday, September 21 from 5–7 PM at the Olson Funeral Chapel in Rush City and a funeral service on Wednesday, September 22 at 11 AM at First Lutheran Church in Rush City. The Reverend Nathan Baker-Trinity will officiate. The interment will follow the service at First Lutheran Cemetery in the Johnston family plot. In lieu of flowers, the family prefers donations in Helen’s honor to First Lutheran Church of Rush City and/or the charity closest to your heart.
Funeral arrangements are entrusted to: Funeral and Cremation Service of Rush City ~ Olson Funeral Chapel