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Obituary of Sandra Brown Johnson
Sandra Brown Johnson passed away May 29, 2020, in Olympia, Washington. She was born November 28, 1948, to Manny and Lucille Brown in Berkeley, California, but raised in Vermillion, South Dakota. Her family moved to Luverne, Minnesota when she was in high school, and there she met the love of her life, Dennis R. Johnson. They were married on July 6, 1967, in Luverne.
Sandi spent her early married life raising their two daughters, volunteering in their schools, and working part-time. After returning to college as a nontraditional student, she graduated Summa Cum Laude from Buena Vista University in Iowa. She soon began her career in public school teaching as a reading specialist, special education teacher, and middle school teacher. After 20 years teaching in Iowa, Arizona, and California, she changed careers to developing educational curriculum in Monterey. Altogether, she was content editor or writer for over 60 supplemental educational books. Following retirement to Eugene, Oregon in 2005, her volunteer work centered on advocacy for needy children, literacy, and helping public school libraries.
After raising two daughters, having rewarding careers, and making numerous moves throughout the Western U.S., Sandi and Dennis settled into retirement in 2015 on Puget Sound, just outside Olympia, Washington, where she started a “Little Library” in her remote neighborhood on Cooper Point.
Dennis’s career frequently took him overseas for colleges, universities, and the government. Sandi hosted countless international students and their families and sometimes traveled overseas with Dennis, racking up at least 15 other countries visited. Travel was a joint interest; their last big trip celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in Spain.
Their older daughter, Angela Elstone, is a school counselor in Oregon. Her husband, Paul, is from England and works in fund-raising for the University of Oregon in Eugene, where they make their home. Their oldest daughter, Chloe, graduated from university last year and has been working in Portland. Son, Ben, will be returning to university this fall; their twin daughters, Sophie and Natalie, will begin attending colleges in the fall.
Younger daughter, Lisa Johnson, had a career in the arts as a performer and teacher. She now works as a civic tour guide at the Washington State Capitol. Her three children are in high school: boy and girl twins, KiShon and Keisha, plus younger daughter, Maya; they live close enough to get together with their grandparents often.
In her neighborhood, Sandi was known for her ardent interest in gardening and bird watching. Among Sandi’s many friends, she was known for her great cooking and entertaining. Fellow volunteers recall a tireless advocate for literacy. Among the numerous exchange students plus the families and friends she hosted, she was known for her international knowledge and welcoming ways. Her former students often recall her as their favorite teacher (even 20 or 30 years after she may have taught them in fourth grade). Her publishing colleagues recall her as a tenacious researcher and exacting writer (her “History Pockets” are still best sellers).
But most importantly, her family remembers a mother and grandmother of seven who was always interested in each child and that individual’s interests, talents, and challenges. She worked with them on creating the best school projects, or overcoming the toughest math problems. She attended every game, match, tournament, meet, concert, or play that she could, and always had praise and support for the children. Her planning and enthusiasm made every holiday or birthday celebration enjoyable for everyone, no matter what age. Her love, commitment, and acceptance of everyone will always be remembered by all whose lives she touched.
Sandi is survived by her husband, Dennis; daughters, Angela Elstone and Lisa Johnson; and seven grandchildren. She was predeceased by her parents; older brother, Tom; and younger sister, Cathy.
Memorial donations may be made to organizations dear to Sandi’s heart: Project Nepal, which supports third-world education, and the Sandi Johnson Library Fund c/o McCornack Elementary School, 1968 Brittany St., Eugene, OR 97405.
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