Leonard Dean "Len" Johnson, 79, of Ogallala, passed away on April 29, 2023, at the VA Medical Center in Grand Island, NE. He was born on December 7, 1943, to Ardell "Swede" and Genevieve "Jean" (Vlasin) Johnson in Grant, the second of 11 children. Len grew up on a farm near Madrid, where he worked for his dad and various neighbors. Here he developed a strong work ethic, a love for sports and the outdoors, and perhaps even an affinity for livestock and chores. It was probably here that he learned if he did enough of the things that were hard, he could do even more of the things that he loved. He graduated from Madrid High School in 1962 and first went off to Kearney State College and then attended and played baseball for the University of Nebraska - Lincoln. He enlisted in the Army in January of 1965 and was eventually stationed in Panama, where he copied Morse Code. Most of his stories from his time in the service were not just about the rigors and sacrifice, he found ways and places to fish, bought a car, and used as much time as he could to play baseball and golf.
After his discharge in January of 1969, he lived in Omaha, attended night school, and worked at Fidelity & Deposit. On August 7, 1971, Len married Marietta "Twerp" Kraus at Mother of Sorrows Catholic Church in Grant. They had a wonderful house in Omaha for one year and then moved to Blue Hill, Nebraska. There he sold insurance and real estate for Commercial Bank of Blue Hill while Twerp taught school. Their house was struck by lightning and burned right after they moved in, and they soon settled on a farm just south of town and welcomed their two children, Carl Dean in 1973 and Lenetta Jo in 1976.
The Johnsons relocated to Ogallala in 1977, where Len was an ag banker and insurance agent for First National Bank, later purchasing the agency and forming Len Johnson & Co., Prairie Products, Rainbow Grain, and Rainbow Popcorn. Len served the community in many ways. He volunteered at St. Luke's Catholic Church, was a member of Rotary, was on the city council (where he served as mayor), was a member of Economic Development, and was on the Board of Health. Many who knew Len came to know him even better through his numerous hobbies and passions. He enjoyed hunting, fishing, golfing, woodworking, playing softball for Brunke Body Shop, coaching baseball, reading, gardening (and sharing what he grew), playing cards, baking, and spending time with family and friends. He also spent a great deal of time commenting about the weather. Be it a lack of or too much rain, not enough or too much wind, too cold to golf or too hot to fish, it was not hard to get him to sound off on this topic. Not much could stop him from doing the things he loved, he always worked hard until the job was done and then enjoyed life to the fullest whenever and wherever he was. His was the definition of a life well lived.
Len is survived by his wife, Marietta "Twerp"; his son, Carl (Amy) of Lee's Summit, MO; his daughter Lenetta (Jim) Kuehn of Minden; grandchildren Karly (Chance Copeland) of Kansas City, MO; Katelyn of New York, NY; Kelly and Kristen, of Lee's Summit, MO; and Jalen, Eli, Elsie, Joey, and Lucy Kuehn, all of Minden; brothers Bernie (Pat) of Kearney, Dennis (Rexene) of Omaha, Don of Atwood, KS, Bob (Cyndi) of Big Springs, and Tony (Ronda) of Ogallala; sisters Jeannette (Jules) Houschouer of Julesburg, CO, Pat McCormick of Ogallala, Eileen (Charles) Culek of Kimball, Carolyn (Linda Delano) of Phoenix, AZ, and Lynette (Al) Paquette of Windsor, CO; and quite literally a bajillion nieces, nephews, and in-laws. He was preceded in death by his parents and in-laws, Karl, Bill, Lou, and Esther Kraus.
A memorial has been established in Len's memory for later designation. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking everybody to share a memory of Len. There will be note cards available at the services, or you can share your memories online at prairiehillsfuneralhome.com, where the Mass will be streamed live.
Memorial Mass will be held on Friday, May 5, 2023, at 10:00 a.m. at St. Luke's Catholic Church in Ogallala, with Fr. Bryan Ernest as Celebrant. Inurnment with military honors will be in the Ft. McPherson National Cemetery at Maxwell at 3:00 p.m. CT.
A memorial book signing with family receiving friends will be held on Thursday from 3-5 p.m. at Prairie Hills Funeral Home in Ogallala. Rosary and wake service will be held at 6 p.m. at St. Luke's Catholic Church in Ogallala.
Prairie Hills Funeral Home of Ogallala is in charge of arrangements.