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The Howard Christensen Nature Center
16190 Red Pine St NW
Kent City, MI 49330
Priscilla loved nature and worked at this nature center for about 20 years.
Life Story / Obituary
Priscilla Johnson was a loving wife, mother, and grandmother. She lived her life selflessly caring for others and had a strong sense of commitment to her family. She was indeed the backbone of her family in many aspects, from her work at home and within her community. Her curious mind, love of beauty and the arts, and her compassionate and supportive nature will be deeply missed by all who knew and loved her.
The Roaring Twenties was a period of sustained economic prosperity with a distinctive cultural edge. With industry booming, Ward and Mabel (Juni) McCartney welcomed home their newborn baby girl, Priscilla, on June 16, 1924, in Elkhart, Indiana. Joining her older siblings, Betty and Ward, her birth was an exciting time for her loving parents.
Growing up, her father worked for the US Postal Service, sorting mail on trains running between Chicago and Buffalo, NY, and although they were spared many of the devastating effects of the Great Depression, Priscilla learned to be frugal and resourceful at an early age. She and her brother, Ward Jr., spent time playing and adventuring together. Although she was more of a tomboy, Priscilla always looked up to her sister, Betty, who was the epitome of everything feminine. She was also very close to her brother, who was only fifteen months older than she. Her dad had always wanted to have a farm, so the McCartney family often visited relatives, the Judsons, who farmed a variety of crops and raised chickens outside Elkhart, The family also made trips to visit their Grandmother Juni and aunts, uncles, and cousins who lived in Jordan, Minnesota.
Priscilla had natural musical talent and took voice lessons during her middle school years, developing a lovely singing voice. When she was the tender age of sixteen, she spent a summer with an uncle, Uncle “Doc” [Arthur], who practiced dentistry in New York City. During this trip, her eyes were opened to the world of culture and the arts, an interest that stuck with her throughout her adult years. After graduating from Elkhart High School, she earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Kalamazoo College. She then entered a Master’s program in psychology at Western Reserve University, but left the program before graduation to marry her husband. Anything she set her mind to doing was always done to the best of her ability.
She met the love of her life, Robert (Bob) Johnson, when he was in medical school at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He was smitten by her beauty and social ease, and wasted no time in proposing to her. They married a year later on May 3, 1947 in Cleveland, Ohio. Settling in Black River Falls, Wisconsin, where Dr. Robert was practicing medicine at the Krohn Clinic, for their first three years, they later moved back to the Ann Arbor area to start a family of their own, while Bob specialized in Internal Medicine at U of M. Together they raised three wonderful children; Mark, Claudia, and Tim. Living in the countryside, Priscilla pursued her love of science and nature, and taught herself to identify animals and birds, plants and trees, a love of learning that she shared with her growing children.
Above all else, she taught them the value of kindness and curiosity. She encouraged them to pursue learning about culture and the arts, making sure they participated in music lessons, attended concerts, and visited museums. Skilled in crafts, as well as frugal, she enjoyed sewing clothing for herself and Claudia, as well as canning and freezing fruits and vegetables for the family to enjoy throughout the year. She modeled for them the ability to accept others with compassion and to always look on the bright side of life.
When all the children had grown and left home for university, Priscilla and Bob took pleasure in exploring the natural world surrounding their home on Bostwick Lake. With her parents living nearby, Priscilla was able to see them more frequently and share time together. Priscilla loved her years working with young people as a naturalist at the Howard Christensen Nature Center. She loved teaching there and was fond of the connection she made with the many children who came to enjoy the center.
After thirty years of living at the lake, they moved to Raybrook where they made many lasting friendships. Priscilla was always fond of the nursing staff and appreciated their tender care as her health declined in her last few years. A sweet person, her cheerful optimism will be her greatest legacy. May her warm memories be a source of strength for her family as they continue living without her physical presence. Any time they are outdoors, may they remember her love of nature and feel her warm spirit among the birds and trees.
Priscilla Johnson, age 96, of Grand Rapids, passed away September 11, 2020. She was preceded in death by her husband, Dr. Robert Johnson, in 2018; her sister, Betty (Dallas) Rogers; and her brother Ward (Helen) McCartney. Priscilla is survived by her children; Mark (Helen O’Toole) Johnson, Claudia (Dominic) Benvegnu, Tim (Karen La Mere) Johnson; grandchildren; Flora (Marc Beaudreau) McEachern, Alec (Tiffany) Johnson, Paul Johnson; and great grandchildren; Henry and Louisa Beaudreau. A private service will be held on Monday, September 14 at 11 AM but will be livestreamed for family and friends (see funeral home website for link). In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions to Howard Christensen Nature Center are appreciated. To share a memory or to sign her guestbook, visit www.heritagelifestory.com