EDMESTON – God needed another angel and he brought the best one ever home to him in the early morning hours Sunday June 5, 2022. Marie Margaret Johansen departed for her heavenly reward from her home, surrounded by her loving children and grandchildren.
Mom was born on August 26, 1939 in Saint Johns, Newfoundland. She was the oldest of five children born to Augustine and Margaret (Murphy) Murphy and grew up on tiny Bell Island off the coast of Newfoundland where her father was a tinsmith for the island’s iron ore mine. The path life led her on in her teen years was not one she would have chosen for herself but it truly shaped the woman and mother she would become. At sixteen years old, she left the pastoral setting of the island behind along with her brothers, friends and teachers and moved to New York City with her mother and sister where she immediately went to work as a file clerk to support the family. It was a difficult transition but she adjusted with the grace and humility that defined her. She met Carl Johansen through her work and turned him down six times before finally allowing him to take her out on their first date. They married in August of 1958 and her joy was compounded as they were able to bring all three of her brothers from the orphanage in Newfoundland to New York and reunite the family prior to the wedding. The circumstances from this period of her life reinforced and influenced the priorities that governed the remainder of her life.
Family formed the cornerstone of Marie Johansen’s life and she was the heart of the large Irish Catholic family she grew with Carl. Raising 2 sons and 6 daughters, all with strong personalities of our own, was a labor of love and pride for her. The separation from her own brothers in her youth made it vitally important to her that her own family continued to have strong ties not only in our own youths, but also as we grew up and started families of our own. The Christmas gatherings each year soon outgrew the house and were moved to the American Legion Hall or Edmeston Firehouse. Camping was a favorite family activity when we were children and Mom continued the tradition with her grandchildren as we gathered each summer for twenty years of annual family reunion themed camping trips revisiting the campgrounds remembered from when we were young as well as exploring new ones. Mom was extremely proud of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren – she kept a small photo album in her purse ready to show them off given the opportunity. They loved her in return and especially cherished their tea parties, Thanksgiving turkey stuffing, baking and other activities with her.
An immigrant to the United States, Mom was extremely grateful for the opportunities afforded to those who live in our great nation. She was very proud of the US citizenship she earned through naturalization and had a profound love for her adopted country. There was a special place in her heart for our service members who were willing to sacrifice for the defense of us all. She was eligible for membership in the American Legion Auxiliary through her husband’s US Army service and dedicated much of her time and talents to the organization and the veterans it supports. She served in a multitude of leadership positions over the years including Unit President for Wharton Valley Unit 1311. Marie enrolled all of her daughters and granddaughters in the American Legion Junior Auxiliary and brought them along as she supported bingo and Christmas parties at the NY State Veterans Home at Oxford, shipped packages overseas for deployed Soldiers, participated in Memorial Day and Veterans Day parades and ceremonies, distributed poppies at the Edmeston four corners every May, and coordinated with schools for Poppy Poster and Oratorical Contests. She was recognized as the American Legion Auxiliary Department of New York’s Member of the Year for 2000-2001.
Education was very important to Mom. She was a very good student herself and enjoyed attending the parish girls’ school on Bell Island. She was disappointed that she didn’t get to finish her education there before coming to New York and entering the workforce. She committed herself to completing what she had started by earning her GED while several of her children were still in high school. Marie was the greatest champion and toughest critic for her children and grandchildren as we progressed through our school years. Her immense pride is literally on display for all to see as they visit her house – high school senior pictures were ceremoniously added to frames above the china hutch in the dining room as each of us graduated. The tradition continued with graduations for her grandchildren and their framed pictures surround the dining room as well.
Our family home on North Street was often referred to as “Grand Central Station North” as it was a bustling hub of activity for family and friends as well as school, church and community activities. There are many references to the hearth being the center of a home, but for us it was the dining room table and Mom was the fire that kept it warm. Few is the number of long-time residents of the Edmeston area that have never had a seat at that table: meetings for the Area Council of Churches, Catholic Women of the Chapel, American Legion, American Legion Auxiliary, planning of Rotary Dinners and Alumni Banquet Dinners; Girl Scout and 4H Meetings; impromptu spaghetti dinners for entire ECS girls sports teams; New Years Eve teen-friendly parties; teaching others to knit; meals, crafts and activities for the multitude of children she provided daytime childcare for; homework sessions, group projects, Trivial Pursuit and game nights. Any visitor to the house – friend, family or complete stranger – was sure to be offered a hot cup of Red Rose tea or coffee and a piece of cake or cookies.
Besides her family, Mom was best known for her knitting. She started knitting at the age of 4 and few and far between are the days of her life that did not find her with her knitting needles at work. In addition to the knitted sweaters, hats, mittens, blankets and baby sets she lovingly bestowed on her family, her giving spirit was manifested in the donations of baby sweater sets to the Basset Hospital gift shop, infant burial gowns to Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, NY, child-sized sweaters, hats and mittens to a wide variety of local, state, national and international charities and adult-sized hats, mittens and blankets to a multitude of homeless shelters and veteran organizations. She was truly talented with an incredible ability to knit not just in the dark, but while having focused conversations with friends because the knitting was so second nature to her. Knitting is a legacy skill she passed on to many of her daughters and granddaughters.
Marie will be greatly missed by her family and friends. She is survived by all eight of her children, Art (Jody) Johansen, Carl (Rita) Johansen, Maureen (Steve) Tremaine, Diane (Norm) Hait, Donna Dorminey, Carol (Ralph) Fasano, Mary Cox and Laurie (Seth) Briggs. She leaves a hole in the hearts of her 21 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. She also leaves behind her only sister, Eileen (Allan) Kay, two much loved sisters-in-law Letty (Dermot) Murphy and Lisa (Brendan) Murphy, and a host of nieces, nephews and extended family. She was predeceased by her husband of 62 years Carl Johansen, her parents, her three brothers Gerard, Brendan and Dermot Murphy, son-in-law Warren Cox, and great-grandson Christopher Briggs-Loy.
Calling hours for Marie Johansen will be held on Sunday, June 12th from 4:00 to 7:00 pm at Delker & Terry Funeral Home in Edmeston, NY. Calling hours will conclude with a short American Legion Auxiliary ceremony and all area Legion and Auxiliary members are invited to participate. Funeral mass for Marie will be held on Monday, June 13th at 10:00 am at Saint Theresa of the Infant Jesus Catholic Church in New Berlin, NY, followed by private interment at the Edmeston Union Cemetery. A reception to celebrate Marie will be held at the Edmeston Firehouse 12:00 to 3:00 pm on Monday.
Marie desired that donations in her memory be made to the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement at Graymoor. A thoughtful donation to a charity of personal significance in her memory would also be a most appreciated recognition of her compassion for others.