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Gert Johnson

Gertrude Eva Muckala Johnson, 95, formerly of rural Bluegrass, died Friday, July 31, 2009, in Wadena.

She began life on April 21, 1914, in New York Mills, the eldest child of Hugh and Rachel (Koljonen) Muckala. Born at home, she weighed less than two pounds. Her parents initially kept her in a shoebox. Her mother's wedding band would slide up Gertrude's arm to the shoulder. Amazingly, she lived without an incubator and specialized medical knowledge.

She attended school in New York Mills. In 1933, she earned her high school diploma from New York Mills High School. Looking for adventure she went to Chicago with her sisters and cousins, sharing an apartment, gaining life experience and storing up memories. They returned to Minnesota and Gertrude, along with her sisters Ruth and Lorraine, attended Bemidji State Teacher's College, earning a two-year degree in education. She then taught in rural schools in central Minnesota.

In 1946, her family began a new adventure together moving to Oregon and settling in Astoria, at the mouth of the Columbia River, where they owned and operated what we would call today an assisted living facility. Then they purchased a store with a filling station and lunch counter in the small town of Hockingson, Wash. She also began clerking at the Woolworth's store in Portland, Ore.

In the early 1950s, a friend from Bluegrass set out for the coast to win her as his bride. Allard Johnson was successful and they married in Washington on Feb. 2, 1952. They returned to Minnesota shortly thereafter and began farming. In 1953, they became parents to a son, Thomas. After Allard's parents retired they moved onto the Johnson home farm where she resided until a few years ago, when she moved to Comfort Care Cottage in Wadena.

She was known to her family as an outstanding cook and fastidious housekeeper. She had beautiful dishes and set a lovely table. They were very social and loved to visit. She enjoyed playing Scrabble and was also an expert at crossword puzzles.

Funeral services will be held Tuesday, Aug. 4, at Hope Chapel southeast of Blue Grass. She will be buried alongside her husband, Allard, in the Wadena Cemetery. Arrangements are with the Johnson Memorial Home in Wadena (

Survivors include her son, Tom, of Bluegrass; a sister, Lorraine Gimre of Astoria, Ore.; a sister-in-law, Josephine Muckala of Alexandria; a brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Arlan and Jeanette Johnson of Alexandria; cousins; and nieces and nephews.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Allard, in 1978; her parents; three brothers, James and Robert, who both died in infancy, and Horace "Hank" Muckala of rural Staples; and a sister, Ruth Bush of Castro Valley, Calif.