Sterling Johnson


(Dec. 15, 2007)

Heart Mountain homesteader Sterling Peter Johnson, 91, died Saturday, Dec. 15 at the Veterans Administration nursing home in Sheridan.

He was born in Weeping Water, Neb., to Martin and Bertha Johnson on Nov. 20, 1916.  His family later moved to Seibert, Colo.,where he attended primary and secondary schools.  In 1935, he began pursuing forestry at Colorado State College in Fort Collins.

Sterling began his military service on March of 1936 when he entered company H of the 157th Infantry. Returning to Seibert in 1937, he managed a gas station and continued to serve in Company I of the 157th Infantry in Burlington, Colo.

Sterling joined the National Guard Reserve after his discharge and was recalled in January 1942 after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  He rejoined his former Company I, 157th infantry.

Sterling fought in Italy and France, and was wounded in 1943 while stationed in Italy.  While in the military, he served as company clerk, mail clerk and also held a corporal’s rank.  After returning home, Sterling married his high school sweetheart, Celia Lillian McCormick, on Aug. 17, 1945.

Sterling and Celia moved to Denver where he worked for Gates Rubber Company.  On Sept. 23, 1946 their first son, Rodney Owen was born.  As a WWII veteran, Sterling drew land from the government to pursue a Heart Mountain homestead so they packed up their small belongings and moved to Wyoming.

In Powell, their son Phillip Carl was born in May 29, 1950.  The Johnsons then started a dairy farm which they managed as a family for several years on Heart Mountain.  Sadly, their youngest son, Bruce Leroy, died at the age of 2 of croup.

After a short illness with cancer, Celia died Jan. 15, 1972.

Sterling continued to live on Heart Mountain enjoying fishing, rock hunting, jewelry making and photography.  He later lived independently for a few years at the Rocky Mountain Manor.  While living at the manor he was honored in 2004 by U.S. Rep. Barbara Cubin with several military medals. The last few months of his life he lived in his son and daughter-in-law’s home  in Powell.

Sterling will be remembered for his love of music as he played hymns and old time songs on the harmonica with his usual cheerful smile.  Even after he suffered a stroke in November, he delighted his son and daughter-in-law by playing two hymns without missing a note.

Survivors include his sons Rodney of Denver, Colo.,  and Phillip and wife Pamela of Powell; granddaughters, Ruth (Dan) Nelson of Andover, Minn., Hannah (Nick) Bailey of Denver, and Abigail Johnson of Billings; grandsons Joel (Michele) Johnson of Powell, Samuel Johnson of Denver, and Benjamin Johnson of Columbus, Mont; and nine great-grandchildren.

Funeral services will be conducted on Friday, Dec. 21 at 10 a.m. at the First Baptist Church in Powell with Pastor David Pool officiating.  A military burial will follow at Crown Hill Cemetery.

For those who wish, the family would appreciate memorials sent to: Project Life Roof Repair with Children’s Relief International; P.O. Box 631369; Highlands Ranch, CO 80163-1369