Geneviève Johnson, 98.5, died in the late afternoon of April 19, 2022, surrounded by her children, as well as some of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, at that time. Born October 6, 1923, fraternal twin of her brother, Jerry, in Grand Forks, ND, the great-granddaughter of immigrants who emigrated to America and Canada from the west of Ireland during the famines potatoes in the early to mid 1800s, through the port cities of Boston, (probably) Montreal and New Orleans, eventually settling around Chicago, Kankakee, IL and ND, Gen was the one of seven children born to Henry O’Keefe and Francis (Kerin) O’Keefe, and the last surviving member of that group.
After graduating from the University of North Dakota, she found herself in Chicago, working as a flight attendant for TWA. There she met on a blind date a fellow North Dakota (Fargo) man, Henry A. Johnson, sometimes known at the time, though of Norwegian descent, as “Swede”. , a recently returned World War II veteran well known in North Dakota for his basketball exploits. Also known as “Hank”, trained as an electrical engineer in the state of North Dakota, Henry was just beginning a business career in sales.
Despite his fiercely proud Irish heritage and Catholic faith, Gen married Norwegian Lutheran “Hank”, under a special dispensation granted to them to do so, on June 28, 1947, and they began a lifelong partnership. , raising four children. , in a journey that took Gen and Hank, due to corporate job transfers, from Chicago to suburban New York and New Jersey, upstate New York, to Chicago, then in Connecticut and finally retired in California, always choosing wonderful communities, with excellent school systems, to live successively in Northwest Chicago, Park Ridge, Park Forest, Clarendon Hills, IL, then Eastchester, NY, to Madison, NJ, then to Gen’s favorite Skaneateles, back to Oak Park, IL, then to Stamford, CT, and finally, retirement to Santa Ana/Tustin/Orange, CA, where Hank died in 2001.
Gen’s life has always been about family, both immediate and extended. She gave birth first to William (1948), then to Irish twins Gerald (1950) and Jennifer Sue (1950) and Marianne (1953). Gen was a busy mom, sewing clothes, finding the best places to swim, and making lifelong friends wherever she was. The house was always open, and she fed and entertained countless of Hank’s children, friends, relatives, visitors, and business associates, while also working as a nursery and Head Start teacher, as well as other part-time jobs. to fill the family. income, and finding the best bargains around food, clothing, and other necessities, as well as antiques, collectibles, and garage finds. She became a clearinghouse for her large extended family, enjoying her relationships with siblings, a vast array of cousins, aunts and uncles, in-laws and mother Franny, able to relay messages, comings and goings concerning them. His talents, and his gifts to all, were his sparkling eyes and smile, which exuded optimism, humble sincerity and empathy, his ability to make and keep friends, to discover the whole story quickly of someone and never to forget it, to make everyone feel comfortable and at ease; she liked to laugh, including at herself, and remembered all the stories. She was also very sensitive, fiercely loyal and proud of her children and family, and not afraid to be assertive or speak her mind. She could also be quite competitive when it came to bridge, bingo, her kids’ sports teams, a few select varsity teams (Notre Dame, Univ. of North Dakota, Dartmouth, Syracuse), favorite pro teams, and quarterbacks ( Joe Montana, in particular), and often rooted for some players based on things other than their athletic abilities. Beautiful, intelligent, pragmatic, generous, not shy, funny, caring and “a character” would all be words to describe her. In her later years, life got tough for Gen, but she managed to smile and laugh about it; though difficult for her, her extended life was a gift to those around and around her.
Gen, who was also called “Murphy” by her husband and known as “Nonnie” by all the grandchildren, was predeceased by her husband Hank (2001), her eldest daughter Jennifer Ames (2010), her parents Henry and Frances O’Keefe, Siblings – Bette, John, Margaret, Bill, twin brother Jerry and beloved younger sister, Maureen, stepdaughter Melinda (Jerry), most other in-laws, many cousins , aunts and uncles. She is survived by her children, Bill and wife Sara Johnson (Hanover, NH), Jerry Johnson (Tustin, CA) and Sam Johnson (San Rafael, CA), son-in-law Jack Ames (Palos Hills, IL); grandchildren Kaitlyn Sikora (Luke), (San Francisco, CA) and Kara Johnson (Tustin, CA), Kris Ames (Kerri), (Frankfort, IL), Melissa Jurzec (Dan), (Tinley Park, IL), Elizabeth Ames-Wollek (Ray), (Tinley Park, IL), Mara Bailey-Olson (Chris), (San Anselmo, CA), Sean Bailey (Kersta), (San Anselmo, CA), Erin Petrilli (JT), (San Francisco, CALIFORNIA); step-grandchildren: Bart Wells (CA), Andrew Trimmer (Hailey), (Tacoma, WA), Katharine Libby (Kevin), (Boston, MA and York, ME) and Matt Eaton (Somerville, MA); great-grandchildren: Connor Sikora, McKenna, Cayden and Madison Ames, Daniel Jurzec, Leo Wollek, Winston, Ellery Jane, Hendrik Olson, Penny and Arlo Bailey, Sloane Petrilli, Declan and Emerson Trimmer, Vivienne Libby, several nieces and nephews , and lifelong friends, especially Bette Fitzharris and Marianne Sims, with whom she remained in contact until the very end.
The family would like to thank the caregivers at Park Plaza Assisted Living and Cadence Hospice, both of Orange, Calif., and Liz Allen for the care they gave Gen, as well as the friends she made. is made at Park Plaza who watched over her, towards the end of her life. A celebration of life is scheduled for July 23, somewhere in Orange County, yet to be determined. If anyone would like to donate in Gen’s memory, please simply donate to the charity or cause of your choice, or just try to treat everyone with kindness, respect , acceptance, smile and sense of humor.