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Elizabeth Hill Johnson (Becky)

Elizabeth Hill Johnson (Becky)

Becky Johnson died quietly at her home in Redmond, Oregon late on New Year's Day. Her daughters, Patti and Betsy, were with her. She was 93 years old.

Born in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, Becky grew up in a small Ohio railroad and farming community, mid-way between Cleveland and Toledo. Bellevue (population then about 7,000) was a division point of the New York, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad (Nickel Plate). Her father worked as a baggage-man and conductor for the railroad for forty-seven years, retiring in 1946. (The Nickel Plate Railroad no longer exists; it is now the Norfolk and Southern, a freight line.)

After attending elementary and high schools in Bellevue, and graduating second in her class of 75 in 1931, Becky earned a four-year named scholarship to Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, from which she was graduated in 1935, summa cum laude with a B.S. in education. She was invited to join Phi Beta Kappa in 1934, and was active in campus affairs. She was among the 12 top graduates in her class of five hundred. She received a full scholarship to Wellesley College to pursue a Master of Arts degree in English Literature. She did graduate work also at the University of Chicago.

Beginning midyear in 1937, she taught English, Latin, speech and drama at Lima Central High School in Lima, Ohio, until 1940, when she moved to Grosse Pointe High School in Grosse Pointe, Michigan as a teacher of the same subjects.

In 1942, following Pearl Harbor and the beginning of World War II, she volunteered and was accepted for officer training in the W.A.V.E.S. (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) U.S. Naval Reserve.

Called to active duty, January, 1943, for Midshipman School at Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts, she served first in the office of the Director of Training, First Naval District, Boston, and then was transferred in July, 1943, to the office of Naval Procurement (Recruiting) Thirteenth Naval District, Seattle, Washington. While recruiting in Oregon out of the Portland office, she met Captain Samuel S. Johnson, Army Corps. of Engineers from Berkeley, California, and they were married in Portland in October of 1944. Mr. Johnson, lumberman, mill-owner, investment manager, who served in the Oregon Legislature (House) for seven terms, was Mayor of Redmond when he died suddenly in 1984.

After being released from active duty in 1946, the Johnsons returned to Oregon to live in Portland. However, in 1947 they moved "temporarily", they thought, to Redmond, where Sam was a partner, along with the late Phil Dahl and Harold Barclay, in the Tite Knot Pine Mill, Barclay Logging, Sisters, and later, in the Jefferson Plywood Company, Madras. Jefferson was the first plywood plant east of the Cascades and merged to become the Warm Springs Forest Productions Industries at Warm Springs in 1965.

Becky became involved as a volunteer in a broad range of civic, political, social and public service activities, and in the maintenance and management of the Johnson's one hundred and sixty acres of forest-land which includes the headwaters of the Metolius River, Camp Sherman. She was vice president of the S.S. Johnson Company.

Along the way, Sam and Becky became the parents of two daughters: Elizabeth Katharine (Betsy), of Scappoose, who is currently a Senator in the Oregon Legislature, and Patricia Caroline (Patti), owner, manager and flight instructor at All-Altitude Aviation, Edgewater, Florida. Both girls have flown in International competition; Patti, in Aerobatics and Betsy, as a member of the U.S. Women's Helicopter Team. Patti is a graduate of the Emanuel Hospital School of Nursing. Betsy is a graduate of Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota, and the Northwestern College of Law, Lewis and Clark College. Betsy had owned a fixed-base helicopter operation (Transwestern Helicopters) prior to serving in the Legislature.

In 1948 Sam and Becky founded the S.S. Johnson Foundation and Becky, served as a director, vice president, and then, president, after Sam's death. Because the foundation is small, and has a relatively quick turn-around time it has been able to make modest contributions to a number of organizations in the fields of education, science, health care, arts and culture, social services, along with grants and/or loans to postsecondary students. It has supported such organizations as the Oregon Historical Society, the High Desert Museum, the World Forestry Center, Emanuel Hospital, Pacific University, Lewis and Clark College, Doernbecher Children's Hospital, The Boys and Girls Aid Society, Hospice Services, 4-H - and since its beginning in Central Oregon, the Boys and Girls Clubs- among many others.

In 1962, while Becky was an elected school board member in the Redmond Elementary District, then Governor Mark Hatfield appointed her to the Oregon State Board of Higher Education, where she served for 13 years, 10 of them as Chairman of the Academic Affairs Committee. She also served for seven years as a governor-appointed (Gov. Straub) member of the Oregon Educational Coordinating Commission, and then was appointed by Governor Atiyeh in 1982 as a public member of the Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission. She was a long-time member of the board of the Sunriver Preparatory School.

Nationally, Mrs. Johnson served on the Board of the Association of Governing Boards of Colleges and Universities (AGB) and was Chairman from 1975-76. As such, she was an invited speaker and representative to such organizations as the National Association of Independent Colleges, the Middle States Accrediting Association, American Association of Higher Education, National Association of Land Grant Colleges and Universities, etc.

A longtime board member, Mrs. Johnson has just completed her terms on the Oregon Historical Society, the Central Oregon Council on Aging, the High Desert Museum, Pacific University, but continued as an active Life Trustee of Lewis and Clark College and a member of the education committee of the Oregon Historical Society. She was a publicly elected member of the board of the Central Oregon District Hospital and of the Deschutes County Historical Society, and represented the Sam Johnson Foundation at meetings of the Council on Foundations, Grantmakers of Oregon and Southwest Washington, the Philanthropy Roundtable, and the National Alumni Forum, etc.

Mrs. Johnson has been honored with an Aubrey Watzek Award by Lewis and Clark College. She was included as one of Oregon's women leaders in a widely-circulated book Images of Oregon Women. She and her late husband were recipients in 1982 of the David E. Abram Award of Emanuel Hospital for philanthropic leadership and were honored as Redmond's "First Citizens." In 1993, Becky was among the first recipients of the Oregon Historical Society's Thomas Jefferson Award. Marylhurst College honored Becky with the Presidential Leadership Award in 1991, and in 1984, she received a White Rose Award sponsored by the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation.

In the summer of 1996, she was the recipient of the President's Award given by the Redmond Chamber of Commerce, for her "long-standing contributions and dedication to the Redmond Community." Her latest, in 2006, Becky and her daughter, Betsy Johnson, were jointly honored with the Glenn L. Jackson Leadership Award, Atkinson Graduate School of Management, Willamette University.

Becky was also invited to be a "Presenter" of awards to other recipients - an honor she cherished.

She was a member of the Town Club, Waverly Country Club, The University Club, The Francisca Club (San Francisco) and the International Women's Forum (Oregon Chapter).

A memorial service will be held at 1:00 p.m.

Elizabeth Hill Johnson (Becky)