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Ruth Gustafson- Obituary

Ruth Johnson

Aug. 01, 2012, 10:35 am

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Ruth Gustafson Johnson, 97, lived a life of travel and adventure, even as a baby. She was born Dec. 26, 1914, in Chicago, and moved to China with her missionary parents, the Rev. David and Luella Gustafson. After their return to the United States, she later graduated from high school and college (Carnegie Mellon University) in Pennsylvania. She took teaching jobs in Kentucky and Illinois. Her travels continued when she and four friends drove a Model T to the World’s Fair in San Francisco in 1940 — an unheard-of trip for five single women. But it was a great adventure and the media coverage made great memories and good copy for years.

Ruth met her husband, Edgar J. Johnson, in Kankakee, where she was serving as a county home extension adviser. They married in 1943 and raised their family here. She is survived by their three children, David (Linda) Johnson, of Kankakee, Nancy Sweet, of Eagan, Minn., and Keith (Susan Fuller) Johnson, of Vancouver, Wash. Survivors also include three grandchildren, Sheryl Johnson, Alex Johnson and Matt Johnson.

Ed Johnson died unexpectedly in 1990. He had been a founder of Johnson-Downs Construction Company Inc., following several years as a homebuilder in Kankakee, and owner of Oakwood Trucking & Excavating Co. Ruth was also preceded in death by brothers, Paul and Wilbur Gustafson; sister, Robin Carlson; and son-in-law, Bradley C. Sweet.

Ruth was actively involved at Asbury United Methodist Church, where she taught Sunday school, served as elementary superintendent and held many offices in church organizations. She served for eight years on the Central Illinois Conference Board of Education for the Methodist Church.

Both Ed and Ruth were active in the Kankakee community. She served in the Kankakee County Homemakers Extension Association, Kankakee County Home Economists, Minerva Study Club and as a 4-H leader.

After the children were grown, Ruth developed an interest in photography and joined the Kankakee Camera Club. She was active as a national amateur photographer and a judge in international amateur exhibitions. This led to more adventures and travels. While Ed stayed home to focus on his businesses, she joined other photographers on worldwide tours. She had many published photos, often in The Daily Journal, and she became known for the slideshows and travelogues presented locally. She and Ed did a lot of traveling together, from family road trips to foreign countries. They visited all 50 states.

Prior to her death on July 5, 2012, Ruth had been a resident of Butterfield Court, then of the Miller Center. The family is appreciative of the many years of good care she had there.

At her request, Ruth’s body was donated to science. A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 5, at Asbury United Methodist Church, Kankakee. Memorial donations may be made to Asbury United Methodist Church, the Kankakee County Museum or to the Wright in Kankakee. Clancy-Gernon Funeral Home, Bourbonnais, is in charge of arrangements.

Please sign her guestbook at

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