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Dorothea Marie Johnson

d. February 10, 2023

Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Dorothea Marie (Christiansen) Johnson, 89, of McFarland Wisconsin and more recently Cedar Rapids Iowa, passed peacefully on Feb 10, 2023, following a brief period of declining health.

Dorothea was born in 1933 to George Daniel Christiansen and Agnes Marie (Norem) Christiansen in St. Paul Minnesota where she grew up in a loving, creative, family-centered and readiness to try new things. Dorothea loved to work in the yard and gardens that her father had established and would comment that the smile on his face when he came home from work was all the reward she needed. Dorothea loved the tropical fish her father raised in aquariums that he had constructed. Her mother was a wonderful cook and instilled that love within Dorothea, as well as imparting her culinary knowledge and skills. Family time was a priority. Dorothea was particularly fond of recounting family dinners that her mother made, enjoyed on the screen porch out back during the warmer months.

Dorothea enjoyed history, geography, and especially art in school. The activity she enjoyed most through junior high and high school was Luther League. It was at a Luther League convention in Colorado Springs following her graduation where Dorothea was introduced to a young man from Kansas who would eventually introduce Dorothea to Donald (Don) Johnson, the man she would marry and make a life with for 63 years.

Following more than a year of correspondence, Dorothea took the train from St. Paul to Seattle to visit Don where he was attending graduate school and where they became engaged. They were married in August of 1953. Don had joined the Air Force and was assigned to the Weather Corps in Europe. Dorothea joined Don in Germany in early 1954, three months after his arrival, traveling by sea aboard the USNS “General Geiger.” Dorothea and Don embraced travel and other opportunities available to them during the 3-year assignment overseas, which included an assignment in France.

Following a state-side assignment at Tinker Airforce Base in Oklahoma, the family relocated to Madison where Don pursued graduate degrees in meteorology at the University of Wisconsin. Then, moving to “the country” while the three children (Mark, Bryan, and Christine) were young, Dorothea and Don began the process of rejuvenating a 100+ year-old farmhouse and turning the place into a hobby farm with a large garden, numerous pets, and eventually horses. There was an apple orchard along with numerous other fruit trees. Dorothea took up canning and, along with various jams and jellies, “put up” untold quantities of apple sauce and produce from the garden. Much family time was spent on the front screen porch during the warmer months, just as Dorothea had spent with her parents in her youth. Dorothea loved watching the butterflies and the occasional hummingbird come to her flower beds, and there were always fresh flowers from her gardens on the screen porch table where many meals were enjoyed.

Dorothea was known for her hospitality and dinner parties. Don had taken a position on the faculty of the Meteorology Department at the university. So there were numerous dinners with faculty and visiting scientists, amongst others around the dining room table. Perhaps some of the most memorable “meal events” were the weekend “work party” days where on any given Saturday during the summer months, graduate students and other volunteers from the Meteorology Department would gather at the home in McFarland to help with scraping, painting, plastering, window glazing, and other aspects of remodeling the Johnson homestead. Late afternoons on those days Dorothea would present a large main course, and guests would bring out their side  dishes to share – including many with an international flair. These were truly wonderful experiences, especially for a young family making new friends and learning about so many wonderful places and cuisines while growing up.

Dorothea loved to travel and did so extensively through much of her life. Earlier on, that love of  travel was cultivated within her children as they grew. There were numerous trips out west and extended adventures to Colorado and Pennsylvania where Don had the opportunity to take short term academic and scientific assignments. Family trips to Kansas to visit grandparents and extended family were especially looked forward to. Later, Dorothea would frequently accompany Don when traveling to domestic and international scientific meetings. Over the course of those trips Dorothea developed a network of dear friends amongst the other traveling spouses – shopping, sightseeing, and sharing many lunches over the course of their daytime excursions.

Dorothea loved art and was a prolific artist. She largely focused on oil painting and print making with favorite subjects including rugged natural landscapes, cottage gardens, and other floral displays. She both taught and studied art for over 20 years, including regularly attending “The Rhinelander School of the Arts” in northern Wisconsin and teaching through the Madison Area Technical College. Dorothea also loved dancing, especially to live music. She and Don enjoyed dancing for over 25 years, following their favorite bands to local venues for these special nights out.

Over time, Dorothea and Don transitioned from Madison to Cedar Rapids – spending increasing amounts of time living with daughter Christine and her family, and where there was another screen porch for enjoying pleasant weather and spending time together. Many gatherings celebrating birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries as well as the occasional art project were hosted there.

Ultimately Dorothea forged a warm, fun, loving, creative home and life mirroring that of her parents – and at every turn sought to teach her children to do the same. She always shared her smile with everyone. She and her smile will be deeply missed.

Dorothea is preceded in death by husband Don, her parents, and sister Vivian Mansfield. She is survived by son Mark, grandchildren Michael and Sarah, and great-grandchildren Barrett and Mabel; son Bryan (wife Sheryl) and grandchildren Neil, Bridget, and Kevin; and daughter Christine (husband Dan) and grandchildren Katherine and Nichole.

A funeral service will be held at 1:30 PM Saturday, March 18, at the Andover Lutheran Church, 115 Dakota Rd, Windom, Kansas, Pastor Anna Borders presiding. Visitation will be from 12:30 to 1:30 in the church prior to the service, followed by a brief graveside service at Andover Lutheran Church cemetery.

A Celebration of Life will be held at 2:00 PM, Saturday April 1, at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, 153 Cherry Hill Road NW, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  Memorial donations may be given to Lutheran World Relief, c/o Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, 153 Cherry Hill Road NW, Cedar Rapids, IA 52405.

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Service Schedule

Upcoming Services

Celebration of Life

Saturday, April 1, 2023

Starts at 2:00pm (Central time)

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Past Services


Saturday, March 18, 2023

12:30 - 1:30pm (Central time)

Andover Lutheran Church, ELCA

117 Dakota Rd, Windom, KS 67491

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Funeral Service

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Starts at 1:30pm (Central time)

Andover Lutheran Church, ELCA

117 Dakota Rd, Windom, KS 67491

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

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