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Melba Lee (Simmons) Johnson

Posted 2017-09-11 by Pat R
Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho)
Sunday, June 19, 2016

Melba Lee Simmons Johnson, age 97, died quietly on the morning of June 9th, in Star, Idaho. Her passing stood in stark contrast to a vibrant, well-lived life. Those who knew Melba will remember her intelligence, her quick humor, and her generosity.

Melba's years spanned a rich segment of American history. She was born on April 10, 1919, in Rufe, Oklahoma to William Homer Simmons and Bertha Mae Fennell Simmons. In December 1936, she moved West with her family of "Okies" to Arizona. She was raised on a cotton farm, which she enjoyed, and which instilled within her a lifelong desire for independence. As a young adult, she graduated from Tucson Business College. She also served during World War II as a member of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps and later worked on the administrative side of the USA's nuclear testing program, working at Berkeley CA, Rochester NY and Oakridge TN.

Melba married James Woodrow Johnson on March 3, 1951 in Wickenburg, Arizona. She joined her husband's faith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days Saints, living the gospel, teaching its principles, and serving others the duration of her life. She became a mother to fraternal twins (both an answer to prayers and a story she loved to tell) and a second son, all of whom were a source of joy in her life. She held many jobs, including working at the Bureau of Indian Affairs and as an auditor for the Internal Revenue Service, both agencies of which she was very proud to be a part. In 1963, the family moved to Eugene, Oregon after being enchanted by the region during Seattle's world fair. Following Woodrow's death in 1985, Melba lived with each of her children for a time: first in Utah, then in her beloved Southern California, and finally in Idaho. She enjoyed traveling the world with family and took a special delight in treating at restaurants. She loved her children and grandchildren and was proud of them. Melba recorded her life's events in the autobiography, As I Remember, published in 1993.

Melba is lovingly remembered by her brother, Dale in Arizona, daughter, Rebecca (William) Lathen, of Star, ID, son, Jamis Johnson of Salt Lake City, UT, son, William (Lois) Johnson of La Canada, CA, 17 grandchildren and 26 great-grandchildren, Woodrow's children: son, David (Carol) Johnson, daughter, Cecelia (Jay) Sorensen and 12 step-grandchildren. She is also survived by many loving nieces and nephews. Melba is preceded in death by her husband, her parents and 11 siblings, 5 of who died as infants or toddlers: Cleo Barrick, Welton, Ben, Bob, Eulas, Eula, Helen, Dewey, Charles, Billy Jack and Barbara Willmott.

The family expresses genuine gratitude to Billie Coelho and Danelle Johnson for the tender care given our mother during last few years and to the kind staff at Country Time Assisted Living in Star, ID the last year of her life.

Family will gather at the Florence, Arizona Cemetery, Saturday, June 25, 2016, 9:00 AM for a short graveside service where Melba will be laid to rest next to her husband, followed by a memorial service at the LDS Florence, AZ Church.

Funeral arrangements under Bowman Funeral Directors, Garden City, ID and Heritage Funeral Home, Coolidge, AZ.

See Also: Find A Grave

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