Phyllis Maxine Johnson

On November 15, 2023, Phyllis Maxine Johnson––loving wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother––passed away peacefully after a beautiful life of 85 years. She left this temporary home surrounded by her close-knit family and is now in her forever-home with Jesus!

A Celebration of Life will be held on Monday, November 20, at 11:00 AM at Rock Haven Church, Granite Falls, MN.  Pastor John McCosh will officiate. Visitation will take place at the church on Sunday, November 19, from 1:00 – 3:00 PM, and will continue on Monday one hour prior to the services.  Burial will be in the Hawk Creek Cemetery, rural Sacred Heart, MN. Arrangements are with Dirks-Blem Funeral Service,, Renville, MN.

In lieu of flowers, donations are preferred to The Gideons International, Rock Haven Church (Granite Falls, MN), Central Minnesota Christian School (Prinsburg, MN), or Renville County Hospice.

Phyllis was born on September 8, 1938, to Marvin and Mildred (Skogberg) Sunvold on the family farm in Ericson Township of Sacred Heart, MN. She was baptized on October 16, 1938, and confirmed on June 15, 1952, at First English Lutheran Church by Rev. I.O. Melom.

She spent her early years participating in 4-H and helping out on the family farm. She enjoyed watching westerns and riding horses as a member of the local Saddle Club. In 1953, at a high school Homecoming bonfire, Phyllis met the love of her life, John Arlen Johnson. She graduated from Sacred Heart High School in 1956. Phyllis and John Arlen were married on June 16, 1956, marking the beginning of an enduring and epic love story that would last for over 67 years. Together, the two raised a loving family and created a home filled with warmth and hospitality. Phyllis was a pillar of strength and gentleness, and she blessed her family with the value of community and a deep-rooted faith in Christ. She dedicated herself to anyone who needed love and care; her heart was devoted to her husband, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, leaving behind a lineage of love that will continue to flourish.

Raised in a farming family, Phyllis remained close to her roots. She and John Arlen were a great definition of teamwork both in and outside of their home. They managed a dairy and livestock operation, grew fields of corn and soybeans, and were recognized as Outstanding Young Farmers in the local area. Phyllis’s commitment to community was evident in her involvement in their local church, Women’s Missionary Federation, Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, The Gideons International, Sons of Norway, and the wonderful friendships made in her and John Arlen’s camping group.

Phyllis was not only a woman of faith but also a woman of many talents. She embodied Psalm 139’s understanding of being “fearfully and wonderfully made,” looking for and creating beauty by having the ability to make something out of nothing. Her creativity shone especially through her sewing, where she could transform anything into a work of art. From intricate quilts to masterfully-crafted embroidery and clothing, Phyllis’s needle and thread were instruments of love and artistry; her creations are treasured keepsakes to all who received them. As much as she spun, stitched, and sewed, Phyllis was also a weaver of stories. An avid reader herself, she was often found with a book in her hand and a few more tucked aside for later. Her generous spirit reached beyond her hobbies. She continually offered an inviting hand and an open door into her home, welcoming every visitor with a cup of coffee and a sweet treat.

Her Scandinavian heritage was a source of pride, and she delighted in passing down the traditions of baking kringle, flatbread, and lefse. Phyllis had a keen memory for family history and was a deep well of information for any question about family ancestry and Scandinavian genealogy. She was a collector of family photos and memorabilia; her granddaughters often dug through the treasure troves of her outfits, hats, and jewelry that she reserved for special tea parties. Family gatherings were filled with good food and laughter as she engaged in friendly competitions of dominoes or Rummikub.

Phyllis Johnson leaves behind a legacy of love, faith, and hospitality. She is survived by her loving husband, John Arlen; 4 children: Doug [Peggy] Johnson of Sacred Heart, MN; Kathleen [Jack] Randall of Council Bluffs, IA; Pam [David] Romo of Moorhead, MN; and Sonia [Chad] Ulferts of New London, MN; 10 grandchildren: Sarah [Montana] Chamberlain; Jonathan [Britt Ingunn] Randall; Nathan [Stacy] Johnson; Rebekah [Ben] Devasahayam; Jennifer [Chris] Kern; Rachael [Daniel] Phillips; Chantal Ulferts; Cassandra [Shean] Gerdes; Elizabeth [Mike] Jopp; and Courtney [Dillon] Erickson; and 24 great-grandchildren: Elliah, Nienna, Natalie, Sophia, Ezra, Elijah, Lisa, Mia, Jarvis, Corrie, Annika, Ada, Emma, Azariah, Eila, Graham, Lucy, Premila, Jeremiah, Torin, Griffin, Esther, Valor, and George.

Phyllis was preceded in death by her parents (Marvin and Mildred), parents-in-law (John and Anna), 2 brothers (Wesley and Roger), a baby sister (unnamed), 1 grandchild (Karina Romo), and 1 great-grandchild (Mikal Devasahayam).

Phyllis’s impact on her family and friends will always be remembered with gratitude and fondness. Although she will be greatly missed, her family rejoices in knowing that she is at home with Jesus!