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Thief River Falls – Shirley Johnson, 93, of Thief River Falls, died on Sunday, February 28, 2021, at Benedictine Living Community, Crookston, with her loving family by her side.

Shirley Ann Johnson was born on April 18, 1927, the daughter of Anton & Clara (Gunstad) Johnson. She was born at home on the family farm in Rocksbury Township, which her Johnson grandparents homesteaded in the late 1800s. Shirley attended school through the eighth grade at nearby Cheerville Country School, the first three years of high school at St Hilaire until the high school closed, and then graduated from Lincoln High School in Thief River Falls in 1944. She was baptized as an infant into the Lutheran faith and confirmed at St Pauli Lutheran Church of rural Thief River Falls, where she was a lifetime member.

Following high school graduation, she worked in Duluth and then attended the University of Minnesota and graduated from the Institute of Medical Technology in Minneapolis. Shirley was employed as a medical laboratory technician for 40 years, starting her career at Bethesda Hospital in Crookston, then at Dakota Clinic in Fargo, St Michael’s Hospital in Grand Forks, Northwestern Hospital in Thief River Falls, and the Falls Starkow and Dakota Clinics in Thief River Falls. Following retirement, she served as a reading volunteer for the local school district and also volunteered with Thief River Falls Hospice for several years. She was active at St Pauli Lutheran Church as a Sunday School teacher, held various offices in the church council, the church women’s organization, and was an organizer and volunteer for the church fall supper.

Shirley was a servant leader who lent a hand, pitched in, offered a ride, and cared for others. She was a talented quilter, making quilts for many family members. She enjoyed making and delivering Scandinavian flatbread, brownies, pumpkin bars, or oatmeal raisin cookies to friends and family. Shirley enjoyed tending her gardens at the farm and home; she was an avid reader and was always ready for a conversation on current events.

Shirley is survived by her niece Susanne (Jody) Hinrichs, of Brainerd; nephew Paul (Heather) Johnson, of Excelsior; niece Jana Johnson, of Chanhassen; great-nieces & nephews, Madeline, Emelia & Hannah Hinrichs, and Owen, Lilia, and Quinn Johnson; cousins Katherine Hanson; Robert (Leslie) Gunstad; James Gunstad; Debra (Dave) Rustad; Doris (Hank) Asmussen; and numerous relatives.

She is preceded in death by her parents and brother and sister-in-law, Curtis W. & Marlene Johnson.

One of Shirley’s last wishes was to be at St Pauli Lutheran Church one last time. Family and friends are invited for visitation from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 6, at St Pauli Lutheran Church, rural Thief River Falls. The funeral service following CDC guidelines with social distancing and limited space will be at 1 p.m., with Reverend Carl Hansen and Reverend Terri Cuppett officiating. Burial will follow at Greenwood Cemetery, Thief River Falls.
In lieu of flowers, memorials suggested to St Pauli Lutheran Church or Hospice of the Red River Valley.