Opal Johnson passed away peacefully Saturday evening, March 16, 2013, at Hilltop Manor in Cunningham, after a long and full life.
Born on June 30, 1925, she was the seventh of Edward H. Helmke and Ellen Christina Dellinger's eight children. She grew up a "tomboy" on the farm, doing chores, fishing, hunting and riding her horse, Watchcharm.
Her favorite childhood story was of riding Watchcharm to St. Paul Lutheran School with her brother, freeing her to return to the barn and finding her waiting when class was dismissed.
She grew up attending and was confirmed at St. Paul Lutheran Church. As she grew older, Opal worked after school at Helmke and Sons Implement, her father's store in Pratt. She also learned to play the accordion.
After graduating from Pratt High School, Opal studied cosmetology and opened her own beauty shop in Preston, making friends and participating in the community. In due time, Opal met Roy B. Johnson. For their first date, they went hunting, progressing from there to a wedding on Sept. 7, 1947, at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Natrona.
They made their first home in Sterling. Eventually, Opal and Roy moved to their farm southeast of Natrona, where they were blessed with two boys, Bruce and Buford. While Roy farmed and worked in the business, Johnson Ditching, Opal kept the books, managed the house, helped with the farm and raised the boys. She taught them to shoot, fish and ride.
Opal was active in the Pratt Saddle Club, 4-H and the church. As the boys grew, Opal become more active in the American Legion Auxiliary. She called the Bingo Veteran's Day celebrations and served as Kansas Seventh District Commander of the American Legion Ladies Auxiliary. She represented the district at several conventions and conclaves.
Opal and Roy were married for more than 60 years, until his death in 2008. She was preceded in death by her parents, five brothers and two sisters.
She is survived by two sons, Bruce and Bianca Johnson, Sedgwick, and Buford and Pam Johnson, Pratt; and many nephews and nieces whom she dearly loved.
Funeral is at 11 a.m. Wednesday at St. Paul Lutheran Church, with the Rev. Michael Schotte officiating. Visitation, with the family present, is from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Ayres-Calbeck Mortuary, Pratt.
Memorials may be made to the church, in care of the mortuary.