(Dec. 14, 2004)
Mildred "Virginia" Johnson, 89, died Dec. 14, in Wenatchee, Wash., where she had just moved to be near a son.
She was born on July 27, 1915 to Charles G. and Clara Mudd, owners of the Mudd Cash Store in Powell and publisher of a one-page newspaper, The Powell Project, described as a "monthly message of good cheer". Virginia's parents and a brother died in the flu epidemic of 1918, and she lived with her aunt and uncle, Lora and Sidney Hooker, in Deaver where she graduated from high school.
She married Robert W. "Bob" Johnson in Jackson on July 13, 1935. They resided in Powell thereafter, raising a family of two sons and a daughter. Virginia became a freelance newspaper reporter providing news and feature articles of the Powell valley for the Billings Gazette, Worland Daily News and the Denver Post. She particularly enjoyed covering the sports events for the Powell High School and Northwest Community College. Her most cherished position was that as the secretary to the Powell High School for 18 years. She particularly enjoyed her days interacting with generations of young people and keeping in touch with them through their adult lives.
In the summer months of the late 1940's, Virginia volunteered to manage the City of Powell's public swimming pool, with her two sons as the pool cleaning crew. This started a lifelong interest in swimming (and cured her sons of ever wanting to clean swimming pools again) that continued through her recognition by the Montana Senior Olympic Committee as the recipient of the Warren Boyd Memorial Award in 2003 at the annual event in Butte. The award is given to senior athletes who have overcome disabilities, providing an inspiration to others. Over the years, as a competitor in the Senior Olympics, she earned 18 medals, most of them "Gold", including participation in the National Senior Olympics in Tucson, Ariz. in 1997. Swimming became a way of life for Virginia. It created friendships, support groups, provided recreation, exercise and focus on healthy nutrition. She was an inspiration to others, especially those who remembered her many years as the secretary at the high school.
She was preceded in death by her husband, Bob, in 1994; her parents; three brothers and a sister.
She is survived by sons, Terry of Wenatchee, Wash.; Tom of Boise, Idaho; and daughter, Carol Suckle of Traverse City, Mich.; eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
At her request, she has been cremated, and a memorial service will be held in Powell on a date to be announced in the spring of 2005.