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Life Story / Obituary
When reflecting on the life of Ralph Johnson, it is easy to see that he was the sort of person who lived his life to serve those around him. Whether he was working hard to support his family, helping a grandchild with a home improvement project, or giving of his resources to someone in need, he was selfless in whatever he was doing. A loving husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, Ralph’s devotion to his family was unmatched. Throughout his life he saw so many of the most beautiful places, but what made these experiences truly extraordinary was sharing them with the ones he loved. Life will never be the same without him here, but he leaves behind a timeless legacy that his loved ones will proudly carry on in his footsteps.
Life during the 1920s was pretty exciting as innovation was changing the way we lived our daily lives. Motion pictures came to life with both color and sound, cars were mass produced on assembly lines, and things like washing machines and refrigerators became part of our homes. Amidst this exciting time was a time of great anticipation in the lives of Harry and Lyda (Wilkinson) Johnson as they were eagerly awaiting the birth of their new baby as November dawned in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1923. The big day finally arrived when the baby boy they named Ralph Lee drew his first breath on November 8th. He was the middle of three children in the Johnson clan as he was raised in the family home on Lafayette Street, NE, alongside his older brother, Richard, and his younger sister, Maude. Ralph’s father was an accountant who was originally from England while his mother was a homemaker.
In many ways Ralph was a typical young boy of his generation. He and his brother were very close, and they remained that way as adults. In fact, they even worked together later in life. The Johnson family was often together, and his mother made it a priority that they were all together for holidays. As a student Ralph attended East Leonard Elementary and then went on to Creston High School.
Not to be forgotten during his years as a young man was Ralph’s introduction to the woman of his dreams. Her name was Eleanor Hansen, and she was from the neighborhood and working as a waitress at the time. They began dating, and it wasn’t long before they found themselves deeply in love. With a desire to spend the rest of their lives together Ralph and Eleanor were married. Together they welcomed five children including Ralph Jr., Rodney, Randy, Rich, and Ruth into their hearts and home. A beautiful artist, Ralph was a carpenter and a decorator by trade. Over the years he worked hard to support his family. He did spent a few months in the Coast Guard during WWII in the early forties.
Material things never meant anything to Ralph as he was all about the people he loved. The way he loved Eleanor was inspiring, and together they exemplified what marriage is truly intended to be. Ralph was patient and understanding, the sort of person who never raised his voice. He wasn’t the disciplinarian, but his children all treated him with love and respect. Ralph’s children, and later his grandchildren, knew that they could count on him for whatever they needed. He was thrilled to be a grandfather, and each one of his grandchildren were so precious to him. Family dinners at their house were such a special time, and just to make Eleanor happy he did his best to finish off any leftovers on his grandchildren’s plates as she never wanted to let anything go to waste. When his children or grandchildren needed help with their homes, Ralph was there. He enjoyed cooking, and his grandchildren loved it when he made them a huge breakfast.
Throughout his life Ralph was a man of many interests. As his family and friends can attest, his favorite way to spend his free time was out golfing. And, if he read it was golf magazines. Ralph enjoyed camping, and for years they spent the summer camping wherever he had a summer job, which took them to places like St. Joe, Ludington, and even Mount Rushmore. He traveled to several places with Cheryl, Rod, and their kids, and on his most recent trip to Marquette he let his three year old great-granddaughter lead him around town! Ralph made several trips to the casino with Don and Ruth, and he was also perfectly content to go on a drive with his dog, Molly. On one occasion he drove all the way up to the Mackinaw Bridge just for fun. Ralph enjoyed eating at home, especially Eleanore’s jello, and he also liked going out to Brann’s for a bite to eat.
All who knew Ralph Johnson would agree the he was one of the most gentle and caring people around. He was never one to let life get the best of him, rather, he fully embraced both the peaks and valleys along his life’s journey. Someone who was laid back and content to go along with whatever others wanted, Ralph was genuine in his concern for others first and foremost. Deeply loved, he will be forever missed.
JOHNSON – Mr. Ralph L. Johnson aged 93, of Grand Rapids, passed away on November 26, 2016. He was preceded in death by his wife, Eleanor; son, Ralph L. Johnson Jr.; great-grand daughter, Zoe Johnson; brother, Richard; and sister, Maude. Ralph is survived by his children, Rosemary Johnson, Rodney (Cheryl) Johnson, Randy Johnson, Rich (April) Johnson and Ruth (Don) Rozanski; 13 grandchildren; 23 great-grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews. He was an avid golfer playing until age 92 and worked for Kooi Painting for most of his career. The Funeral Service will be held at 12 PM on Thursday December 1, 2016 at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home, 1833 Plainfield Ave NE. The family will receive visitors from 11 AM until the time of the service. Interment in Plainfield Twp. Cemetery. Contributions in his memory may be made to Faith Hospice. Please visit www.lifestorynet.com to read his lifestory, archive a memory, photo or sign the guestbook online.