Waunita Cleone Johnson was born October 16, 1931, to James and Julia (Hamilton) Gorrell in Woodbine, Iowa, joining two older sisters, Garnet and Nadene. The family lived on a farm east of town off of the old “Baloney Shortline”, growing up in the “old times”, farming with teams of horses and walking to the country school house on the mud roads of Harrison County. When high school came, Waunita was able to stay in town during the week to attend classes, returning to the farm on weekends, since no school buses ran. She graduated from Woodbine High School in 1950, where she was active in girls’ basketball, chorus and excelled in clerical classes. She worked in Omaha after graduating, and married her high school sweetheart, Forrest Johnson, on November 15, 1952. They would have celebrated 70 years together this coming November. When Forrest was drafted into the Army, she continued working while he completed basic training. They moved to Texas when Forrest was stationed at Fort Bliss. Waunita found administrative work at a medical practice in El Paso while Forrest served in the military. They made lifelong friends and cherished many memories of happy times spent there.
In 1956, Waunita and Forrest moved back to Woodbine where they re-entered the farming life. They purchased a farm west of Woodbine, hilly land on the banks of Elk Creek, that they worked every day to improve, terracing cropland and eventually building a house in which to raise their growing family. Three daughters were born between 1957 and 1966 - Tamera Lea, Renee and Crystal Kay.
Waunita’s dedication to her family and farm life was evident. She made sure her kids had swim and music lessons, attended church, including Bible school in the summer, had clean clothes and learned how to both work and play. Pets were also a big part of family life and she made sure they were loved and ate well. She spent considerable time running for parts, fixing big noon meals, taking lunch to the field, helping her mother, gardening, canning, cooking, singing, praying for rain and keeping a clean house.
She was also a huge sports fan and not only played on a Woodbine Women’s Softball Team, but ensured her daughters participated on their own sports teams and knew the rules before being coached. Many a day she played softball and basketball with her kids during their formative years - sometimes even in the house!
In 1986, Waunita went to work outside the farm and home, commuting to Omaha on a daily basis, working mainly for the National Park Service and then with HUD. She impressed her bosses and co-workers with her work ethic, administrative skills, and her baking, sharing homemade pecan rolls, pies and other treats on special occasions, and keeping their offices running smoothly. Waunita retired in 1998 at the same time Forrest retired from Tommy Gate.
Waunita was an active member of the United Methodist Church, and lived her faith daily. She was a lay reader, taught Sunday School and assisted with Youth Group and “Kid’s Club”. She volunteered many years with Meals On Wheels, Rose Vista and the local food bank. She sang in the Methodist Church choir, in the Notabelles and was the “straight man” to Forrest as they led the weekly Sing-A-Long at Rose Vista for many years. She and Forrest also took many memorable trips during their retirement, enjoying visits to their daughters’ homes and travels to different destinations in the United States. A testament to her strength, she was instrumental in her family and other’s lives when the “going got tough”.
Waunita passed away the evening of June 7, 2022, after a life filled with love and service to her family, church, and community. She died at her country home with her husband Forrest and daughter Tamera by her side at the age of 90 years, seven months and 22 days.
Waunita was preceded in death by her parents; two sisters and their husbands; and most of her in-laws. She is survived by her husband, Forrest; daughters Tamera (Howard) Harris, Renee Johnson (Mark Sant), and Crystal Johnson; brother-in law, Neubert (Judy) Johnson; as well as many nieces, nephews, and friends. She was a loved wife, mother, and aunt and will be sorely missed.
The family would like to extend special thanks to Norma and Jim Rock whose assistance over the past several months allowed Waunita to remain in her beloved country home in the hills west of Woodbine. In lieu of flowers, memorials to honor Waunita are preferred to the Woodbine First United Methodist Church or the Woodbine Food Bank.