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Columbia Missourian

Helen Johnson remembered as respected nurse, loved mother and caring friend

By Erin Jones
March 3, 2012 | 4:29 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Helen Johnson loved romance novels. She read many of them, captivated by the romantic fairy tales where the heroines fell deeply in love and always had their happy ending.

She finally received her own "happily ever after" when she married Richard Johnson in 1995. They met at a Parents Without Partners dance, and at first, he didn't want to get involved because she didn't smile often. But when they went to Hardee's with a group, they hit it off. They were together for about 13 years.

"She got married to the love of her life," her daughter Laura Fuller said. "Since he died, she has wanted to go home to him."

Helen Jean (Wyatt) Johnson of Columbia died Friday, March 2, 2012. She was 79.

She was born on Nov. 30, 1932, to Mary Lillian (Fowler) and Delbert Alton Wyatt.

She weighed about 4 pounds when born, so her parents put her in an open drawer to sleep because she was so tiny, Fuller said.

Mrs. Johnson had a happy childhood on her parents' farm. She was close with both of her parents, and was "daddy's girl." Her father would take her fishing and they would talk and enjoy spending time together.

Fuller said her mother told her that as she was growing up her brother, Bob, would always take her money and hide it so she couldn't find it. She never got over the habit of hiding her cash from him, and recently she asked Fuller to help her find all the money she had hidden.

The siblings thought the world of each other, however.

Mrs. Johnson graduated from Blessing Hospital School of Nursing in 1953. In the same year she married Ernest Morgan Jr. He died in 1983. She married Richard Johnson in 1995.

She was a member of Oakland Christian Church.

Mrs. Johnson worked at University Hospital for 30 years. Five of her relatives have since followed her footsteps into the medical field.

"She was a very caring person; her skills were excellent," her daughter Linda Faler said. "She wanted to be a nurse since the time she could talk."

In December 1981, Mrs. Johnson was employee of the month at the hospital. She was respected for being a fair and kind supervisor.

"The most important thing to her was that her patients were taken care of," Fuller said.

"She always worked overtime, so that every school year we had new clothes," Fuller said. "She worked nights but got up early every morning to spend time with us three girls. Everything she did was for us."

Faler remembered sewing beautiful gowns for formals with her mother, who was an excellent seamstress. She also recalled her mother's country cooking, especially a smothered chicken recipe.

The kindness and caring nature that she brought to her nursing career also translated into the rest of her life.  She had many friends, and they looked to her as a mother.

"She picked up kids everywhere she went," Faler said, laughing.

The first impression people had of her was that she was mad or upset because she was so serious about her work, but she really had the biggest heart, Fuller said. 

"She was very humorous. People didn't know that side of her until they got to know her," Fuller said. "She always said funny things at the dinner table, and people would be shocked that an old person could say those kind of things. Once she gave insight into the dating life of my daughter and her boyfriend.

She enjoyed traveling with her husband and researching interesting facts in her medical books.

Mrs. Johnson is survived by three daughters: Linda Faler, and her husband, David, of Quincy, Ill., Laura Fuller, and her husband, Dave, of Columbia, and Cindy LeBaube and her significant other, Derek Gibbons, of Mexico, Mo.; three stepchildren: Carla Johnson and her significant other, Steve, of Columbia, Wayne Johnson and his wife, Christy, of Jefferson City, and Kay Wilson and her husband Rick, of Phoenix; six grandchildren; seven stepgrandchildren; nine great-grandchildren; and many friends and neighbors.

Her husband, Richard Johnson, died in 2008.

A visitation will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday at Memorial Funeral Home, 1217 Business Loop 70 W. There will be no funeral. Interment will be in Memorial Park Cemetery.

Memorial contributions may be made to Hospice Compassus, Suite 100, 3050 Drive S.E., Columbia, MO 65201, or American Parkinson Disease Association, Campus Box 8111, 660 S. Euclid Ave., St. Louis, MO 63110.

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