Kenneth Franklin Johannson, 84, longtime Crookston, MN resident, passed away the evening of November 14, 2021, in his home in Fargo with his loving family by his side after a brief illness.
Ken was born in Grafton, ND on November 17, 1936, the son of Frank and Ina Johannson. He was baptized and confirmed in the Lutheran faith, and grew up in Mountain and Langdon, ND. Ken’s maternal grandfather lived with the family in their home, and since he didn’t speak English, the household spoke entirely in Icelandic. Ken spoke very little English until he entered Langdon elementary. Ken helped his mother support the family by keeping several dairy cows in the back yard and making neighborhood milk deliveries every morning before school and continually taking odd jobs around Langdon.
Ken was active at Langdon High School, playing on the basketball and football teams, participating in band, playing the trumpet, and singing in the choir. This is when he discovered his love for choral singing, which would last a lifetime.
Ken enrolled at the University of North Dakota, where he was very active socially and earned a Bachelor of Business Administration. He joined the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity and continued his pursuit of choral music by auditioning for and being accepted into the Varsity Bards. Among many other pursuits, Ken was one of the founding members of the athletic booster club, The Golden Feathers, and served as its first President. He was also active in student government, eventually becoming student body President his Senior year. It was, however, during his third year he met fellow Junior Patricia Johnston, as both were serving on the UND student council. The meetings often went late into the evening and a hopeful Ken would volunteer to walk her home afterward. They were soon inseparable and before long were engaged to be married.
Ken and Pat’s experiences in college largely formed who they became as individuals, and as a couple, both cherished the experience, and they became lifelong enthusiastic boosters of all things UND.
Approaching graduation, Ken accepted a position with Cargill and began training with them as a grain buyer in the Twin Cities.
Ken was joined in marriage to Patricia Johnston on August 15, 1958, at the First Methodist Church in Cavalier, ND, and after spending their honeymoon in Manitoba, they moved to Crystal, Minnesota, where Ken continued his training with Cargill. Within a few months, the company moved the new couple to Toledo, Ohio for Ken’s first assignment and also where Pat accepted a position as an Assistant Buyer with LaSalle’s department store.
After a year in Toledo, they decided the best decision for them was to return to UND, where Ken enrolled in the School of Law. Ken found his passion for the law and excelled in law school, graduating with a Juris Doctor with Distinction. In addition to his studies, he was appointed as the Assistant Dean of Students.
While Ken and Pat were in law school, they moved into married student housing, and it was there that they welcomed their first child, Tommy, into their lives in November 1961. When Ken graduated from law school, he accepted a position as an Associate Attorney at the Crookston law firm Padden and Dickel, and the family immediately moved to the community that would become the anchor of their lives and family.
When Ken and Pat first arrived in Crookston, they immediately embarked on an active professional and social life in their new community, including joining Trinity Lutheran Church, where Ken continued his passion for singing with the choir for nearly 50 years. He eventually served the church as Congregation President on two occasions. Ken was a member of and took leadership roles in many civic organizations, such as the Rotary Club, Jaycees, and Toastmasters. He also joined Minakwa Country Club, where he pursued his love of golf and made dozens of close friends that would last the rest of his life.
Ken’s family was also growing and over the next few years, he and Pat welcomed daughter Kirsten and sons Douglas and David. He became very active in youth sports and activities as his children began to grow and the entire family was kept in constant motion. He even taught himself to skate as an adult so he could stay involved in his kids’ activities and became a frequent youth hockey coach for an adopted sport he came to love. Ken and Pat logged thousands of miles over the years watching, encouraging, and leading their children’s many activities.
Ken and Pat bought a small cabin on Lake Bemidji in 1973, where the family spent many happy summers and Ken met many new close friends among the neighbors on the lake and he also joined a Saturday and Sunday morning golf group that continued faithfully for decades. It was around this time that Ken and Pat first visited Lahaina, Maui and they instantly fell in love with the town and the Island, returning year after year for rest and relaxation. It was there that Ken became an avid scuba diver, making many challenging dives and exploring an environment he had become fascinated with, which was also reflected in many of the mementos and artwork he collected from that time forward.
Ken had many hobbies and varied interests, the most well-known to those who knew him was model railroading, which was a passion since he was a kid. He became an accomplished, self-taught modeler with several minor and three major layouts over the years. Every home he lived in had a dedicated “train room,” where he loved to spend time relaxing and using his natural creativity while listening to Crookston sporting events on KROX Radio.
Ken’s legal practice began in all areas of the law, and he developed a reputation of professional integrity and excellence that attracted clients from all over the Red River Valley, while he also served Crookston as Municipal Judge. Ken developed into a seasoned and highly successful civil litigator, which eventually became almost his entire practice for the next 40 years. As the firm grew and developed, Ken was named a partner and then eventually Senior Partner over a long and successful legal career. He enjoyed many successes in the courtroom over the decades, but as he neared retirement, he still had a number of personal clients around the valley who he’d served from his first days as a young lawyer.
After retirement, Ken and Pat began spending the winter months in a new home in Goodyear, Arizona, where Ken stayed active, playing lots of golf with friends new and old as well as joining the community choir and a very active model railroader association. He enjoyed the rest of the year at his very favorite place, the cabin on Lake Bemidji, spending time with old friends and family.
Ken leaves Patricia who was the center of his life for the last 63 years, and three children: Kirsten Johannson of Fargo, ND; Douglas Johannson of Woodbury, MN; and David (Dianna) Johannson of Shoreview, MN, two beloved grandchildren, Jack Arthur Johannson (15) and Winter Rose Johannson (7), Brothers-in-Law, Richard Johnston and Robert (Terry) Johnston, nephews, Corey (Renee) Johnston and Rob Johnston, and nieces, Suzie Johnston and Heather Johnston.
He is preceded in death by his parents, Franklin and Ina Johannson, In-Laws Arthur and Juanita Johnston, his first-born child, Thomas Arthur Johannson, and nephew, James Johnston. Ken’s family is heartbroken with his passing but is comforted that his son has already welcomed him home.
The funeral service celebrating the life of Ken Johannson will be held at 1:00 p.m. on Friday, December 10, 2021, at Trinity Lutheran Church, Crookston, MN, with the Rev. Greg Isaacson officiating. Visitation will be for the hour prior to the service. The funeral will be live-streamed by going to the bottom of Ken’s obituary page at www.stenshoelhouske.com beginning 10 minutes prior to the scheduled start and clicking on the prompt to view.
In lieu of flowers, memorials can be sent to Trinity Lutheran Church, Crookston, MN, or The Marv Bossart Foundation for Parkinson’s Support.