Rosemary Johnson was born February 25, 1925 at home in Pierz, MN. At age ten the family, now with five girls, moved to Melrose to open a general store. She lived most of her life in Melrose
Rosemary passed away peacefully at home March 17, 2021 at age 96. She was wonderfully outgoing, warm, and loving toward her family and the people in her community. All of us knew a walk downtown with her would take forever because she would stop to talk with almost everyone she saw.
Many people initially knew Rosemary through the store she and her husband Johnnie owned. In 1958 they moved back to Melrose to take over the Hartmann’s Federated Store from her mother. It started as a general store but was destroyed by a fire in 1963. They rebuilt it as a women’s store and named it The Garland. Rosemary was one of the original “personal shoppers” as is common these days in high end clothing stores. We remember her box of 5X7 cards, each one with sizes, preferred colors, and other information for many women in the community. When going to Minneapolis to shop for the store many women wanted her to shop for them. Her client’s husbands knew they could always call Rosemary for help with birthday and holiday gifts. For many years she hosted a women’s fashion show which was one of Melrose’s most popular events of the year.
When the store burned down in 1963 much of the clothing survived but was smoke damaged. Many people in Melrose and the surrounding community came to the aid of Rosemary and Johnnie in many ways. We remember many women taking piles of clothing home to wash and dry them to be sold to help finance the building of their new store. Many thanks to the people of Melrose and surrounding community for their big hearts and wonderful support of Rosemary and Johnnie.
Rosemary met her future husband Garland (Johnnie) Johnson when he worked for the Great Northern Railroad in Melrose. Rosemary and Johnnie married on August 7th 1947 and were together for 54 years. Johnnie would often say that Rosemary was the best thing to happen to him in his life.
A major force in Rosemary’s life was her relationship with God and the Catholic Church. Many things in her life revolved around her faith including volunteer work when she retired. She loved playing her guitar at Sunday Mass for many years and for decades participated in a prayer line. Rosemary would always end her letters and cards with “God bless you.”
After Rosemary retired in 1986 she was very active as a volunteer in Melrose. She was outgoing and loved any activity that helped people. She really enjoyed her 15 years as a teacher’s aide at St. Mary’s Elementary School helping 1st graders learn to read. Often in the later years, former 1st graders, now as adults would say “Hi Mrs. Johnson,” and would want to stop and talk. For a couple decades through Faith in Action Rosemary used her car, weekly, to transport people to and from medical appointments and to pick up prescriptions. She would also drive people to and from the Melrose Food Shelf. She received her 50-year pin from the American Legion and was active in the VFW as the leader of community service. For many years she helped lead their largest annual fund raiser which was the production of up to 200 dozen colored Easter eggs to be sold.
Rosemary loved to tell jokes and tease people. One of her favorite holidays was April Fools’ Day. She loved pulling a fast one over on someone and her favorite target was her husband Johnnie. He was always disgusted with himself when she would, again, trick him.
Rosemary loved any opportunity to get family and friends together. She had a huge heart and will be most remembered for her kindness and warmth. It would do us all well to be as kind as Rosemary and to not judge others. That does not mean she didn’t have her own values, principals, and convictions, they were extraordinarily strong. She just didn’t judge others who thought differently. She knew how to gush over others and it truly came from her heart.
One of the reasons Rosemary led a long and healthy life was her level of physical activity and exercise. In her sixties she learned to swim and dive. When she got nervous about her bicycle, she got a tricycle and she could often be seen peddling on the Wobegon Trail. In later years as walking became hard, she put her walker in the basket of the tricycle, peddled to Coborn’s, used the walker to shop and then biked back home. Even into her nineties, a couple times a week she could be found at Snap Fitness working out. It was fun to look over and see this 90-year-old woman pumping the bicep machine.
Rosemary loved being outside in her many gardens and most summer days you could find her planting flowers or weeding. Her favorite bird was the cardinal. She loved that cardinal. He would come to see her many days throughout the year and she would just marvel at how beautiful he was. She was still deadheading flowers from her electric scooter in the last summer of her life.
One of the hardest moments of Rosemary’s life was the loss of her daughter Bernadette at age 30. She was the youngest of her four children. Bernadette took a very active role in selecting and displaying merchandise for The Garland.
Rosemary started planning her funeral and life celebration over 15 years ago and was very thoughtful about all the details. Flowers, music, location, and everything else. There will be a visitation at Patton Schad Funeral Home in Melrose Friday evening, March 26th from 6:00 to 8:00 PM. The American Legion Auxiliary and Schanhaar-Otte VFW Auxiliary will pray at 8 PM immediately following with a rosary by the Christian Mothers on Friday. There will also be one hour visitation at the Patton Schad Funeral Home prior to the service on Saturday, March 27th at 11:00 AM. Rev. Mindy Czycalla will officiate. Lunch will be served at the American Legion following the service. Interment will Monday, March 29th at 11 AM at the Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery in Little Falls.
Instead of gifts or flowers please make donations to the Melrose Area Food Bank or St. Mary’s School.
Rosemary leaves behind her 3 children Chris Barron, Michael Johnson, and John Johnson, along with 9 grandchildren, 9 great grandchildren, and 4 great-great grandchildren.
Preceded in death by her parents, 4 sisters, husband Garland Johnson, daughter Bernadette Moore , and great grandson Eric Kleeberger.
Rosemary was a powerful force in the lives of her family.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Rosemary Johnson, please visit our floral store.