Opal (Houg) Johnson was born in Ringsted, Iowa to Marius and Minna Houg on December 21, 1909. She was the oldest of seven children. Opal’s family moved to Pine River when she was six years old. They traveled from Ringsted, Iowa by train, arriving on Thanksgiving Day, 1917 at 3:00 am. They were met by future neighbor, Jens Sorenson, who took them by horse and wagon to their home for a hot meal prepared by his wife. The next morning, they were taken to their new farm home located just east of Norway Lake. They paid $40 per acre for their farmstead.
Opal graduated as valedictorian from Pine River High School and continued with one year of Normal Training (for teaching) in Pine River. She pursued her teaching degree in summer school and one year at Moorhead State Teachers College, eventually earning her lifetime teaching certificate. She taught all 8 grades for two years at Whitefish School east of Pine River, followed by teaching jobs at Mildred, Moorhead and Averill for a total of 17 years.
Opal resigned from teaching to marry Arvid Johnson in 1942. They raised two children, Alan and Judy, in Pine River. Arvid and his brother, Ernie, started Johnson Bros. Lumber Company in Pine River which they owned until retirement. After Arvid’s death in 1993, Opal lived in apartments in Pine River until she entered the Pine River Good Samaritan Home in 2010. Opal was known and loved for her prodigious handwritten correspondence with friends and extended family members and for her amazing memory.
Opal’s long life was probably due to a number of factors which are associated with longevity: deep spirituality, close friends and family, good diet, no drinking or smoking, lots of exercise (gardening) and good Danish and Norwegian genetics. She was preceded in death by her parents; sisters, Cora Smith and Muriel Buss; brothers: Clifford, Kenneth, Harlan, and Elsworth “Bud” Houg; and daughter, Judy (Johnson) Houser.
Opal passed away on November 5, 2020, at age 110 years and 323 days. She is survived by her son, Alan (Pat) Johnson; granddaughter, Tawna (Brad) Staples; grandsons, Andy (Sarah) Johnson, Lee (Lauren) Johnson; great grandchildren, Oliver and Hannah Johnson; and many nieces and nephews.
The family is planning a private graveside service with a celebration of life next spring.