Fair Meadow Nursing Home
April 2019
Resident of the Month

Karen Sandberg Johnson

Karen Sandberg Johnson was born June 11, 1924 to William and Margaret (Imsdahl) Sandberg. She had three younger sisters, Mona, Joyce and Patty. Karen was born on a farm about eight miles east of Fertile and grew up in the areas of Rindal and Woodside, attending 3 different country schools before attending high school in Fertile. As a child growing up on a farm, she learned to clean eggs, carry water and bottle-feed lambs. The family survived the depression of the thirties by growing and canning vegetables and diversified farming; growing animals as well as crops to feed the animals. She laughs as she tells of a song that her father sang as they milked the cows…

I will tell you of that girl of mine,
She looked so neat and dressed so fine.
She came from Deutschland on the Rhine some couple of months ago.
She has got a funny name but she's not to be the blame.
Twas the name she got from her father just the same
Katarina Levenstina Mondelena Dingelbender Milamina Hochstein Lamerslager was her name.

Karen was confirmed at Faaberg Lutheran Church in Rindal. After graduating from Fertile High School in 1942, Karen travelled by train to Vancouver, Washington to work in a store owned by her aunt and uncle. She sold groceries and pumped gas during the year and half that she worked there. This was during WW II, so ration coupons were a common way to pay for sugar, coffee, meat and gasoline. In the spring of 1944, she headed back home to Minnesota and that fall went to Minneapolis to enter nurses training at the University of Minnesota as part of the new federal Nurse Cadet Corp. This program was to encourage women to become nurses because of the shortage during the war. There were 300 in her first quarter which required them to take 21 credits. At the end of the quarter when grades came out, there were 150 left! Karen worked hard and finished the program, becoming a registered nurse.

Late in Karen's high school days, Norris Johnson called her for a date. She accepted, and they began a US Postal Service romance since he was in the Army Air Corp and only came home occasionally on leave. September 22, 1946 they were married at Concordia Lutheran Church and moved to Spokane where Norris was still in the Army. They lived in a one room apartment with a two-burner stove, two chairs, a bed, and a metal table. They shared a refrigerator and bathroom with two other apartments. They had only one dim ceiling light and one day Norris brought home a bigger bulb so they could see what they were doing. The next day the landlady came up, took out the bulb and put a smaller one back in. The bigger one took too much electricity. They moved back to Fertile in 1948 and eventually Norris bought the Culligan business and they began raising a family.

Seven Johnson children were born over the next 12 1/2 years. Earl, Sue, Peggy, Alan, Heidi, Mark and Sarah made life very interesting over the next 33 years until they had all graduated from Fertile High School. Needless to say, Karen was very busy. The nursing came in handy for all the scrapes seven children can get into and she also gave allergy shots to many other children in the area and did some private nursing. The Johnson family was known for having a menagerie of animals that were not normal pets. One time the boys brought home a young owl that became quite tame. At other times there were rabbits, pigeons, a chicken, a badger, snakes, chipmunks, gophers, and a flying squirrel in cages. The kids would dig salamanders out of the window well by the front door and one time they put a box of voles in the bathtub so they wouldn't get away. Unfortunately, Aunt Mona heard them scratching around in there and there was a lot of screaming.

Karen always had a garden as well as flowers in the yard. Her favorites were the spring bulbs. She also taught the girls to sew, made her own bread, and was very good at assigning household chores. One time most of the kids were home from school with chickenpox. They were beginning to feel better and get more active. She finally sat all of them down in the living room and taught them all to knit. Knitting has been a favorite activity for her ever since she lived in Spokane. She made sweaters for all 16 of her grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren so far. She says she is tired of making those sweaters and is DONE. She also loves bird-watching and has helped with the local bird counts several times.

Friends and family are invited to stop by and visit Karen in her cozy room at Fairmeadow.

Karen's Grandchildren
  • Kirsten
  • Erika
  • Joshua
  • Ramona
  • Mark
  • Joy
  • Maren
  • Caleb
  • Jeremy
  • Anna
  • Levi
  • Matthew
  • Ian
  • Brenna
  • Kevin
  • Jennie
Karen's Great-granchildren
  • Trygve
  • Ian
  • Sylvia
  • Walt
  • Neal
  • Grace
  • Brielle
  • Tanner
  • Emilie
  • Jenna
  • Harley
  • Nolan
  • Walker
  • Maxwell
  • Marley
  • Mary Jane
  • Maple
  • Kennedy
  • Emery
  • Elizabeth Belle
  • Jack
  • Kaleb
  • Ainsley
  • Elizabeth Gean