Mary E. Johnson

Honored by:Dana Johnson Swearingen
Brick location:D:9  map


My mother, Mary Ellen Johnson, is a true hero. She is not famous or rich. She is not a movie star and has never saved anyone from a burning house but she is indeed a hero. She was a brilliant child. She was "gifted and talented" before anyone knew what that meant. Her elementary schools made offers to let her skip several grades but my mother and grandmother decided that it was important to be a well-rounded student so she graduated only one year early.

My mother wanted so desperately to go to college to study journalism but unfortunately could not afford to go. However she was able to enroll in summer teaching courses and attained a teaching certificate. She worked as a hairdresser near her hometown of Valentine, Nebraska until she married my father in 1960. My parents moved to the family ranch in Burwell, Nebraska and began raising their family a year later. Raising her four children is how my mother became a hero. My parents had four children my sisters Valla and Thea my brother Curtis and myself.

My mother accepted her life as wife and mother and put her own ambitions on hold while putting her family's needs before her own. My father held various jobs while our family moved from Nebraska to North Dakota and South Dakota and back to Nebraska. My mother had to work as a teacher and hairdresser to keep a steady income for the family. These were not the careers my mother chose but once again she sacrificed her own needs for her family.

My mother sacrificed her own happiness for the family by staying in her failed marriage with my father for several years because she thought her children would suffer by being raised in a broken home. When my parents marriage finally ended my mother had the opportunity to go back to college but she did not enroll in journalism courses to fulfill her dream rather she chose computer science because she could complete that program in two years and begin making a good living to support her family.

While in college my mother took more than a full-time course load while working full-time as well. I remember my mother getting home at midnight from work studying for several hours before going to bed and then going off to school at 6:30 a.m. the next day. She not only made it through school without putting our family on welfare she graduated from college as President of Phi Theta Kappa with a 4.0 grade average.

My family saw many lean years but I never knew that as a child. We were always well fed and dressed. My mother always put off buying new clothes for herself so her children could have new clothes each school year. My mother took great pride in the fact that we always somehow made ends meet without any sort of government aid. For many years my mother would work a full day at her beauty shop and then work in our family's tavern all night.

Her work ethic is perhaps one of the most important values that she instilled in her children. My family has been through several tough times but no matter what happens my mother is there to help us pick up the pieces and give sound advice. She has always had a way of making us believe in ourselves when things seemed hopeless. My own life will be a success if I can pass on to someone else the values I have learned from my mother.

My mother is still working in the computer field and is about six years away from retirement. It is now my dream that in her retirement she will be able to fulfill her dream as a journalist.