Erma Johnson


Erma Harriet Johnson of Fairfield, IA was a loving Wife, Mother, Grandmother, Great Grandmother, Aunt, sister and friend. She died after a brief illness at the age of 92 on January 20, 2024.

Erma was born to Emma (Krause) and Harold Stephenson on November 9, 1931, in Milbank, South Dakota. She grew up in the Black Hills with her parents and sister, Phyllis. Erma and Phyllis had many stories about watching their father work in the hoist room of mining operations, living in log cabins, and trout fishing in streams in their beloved Black Hills.

Erma met Wesley Johnson at South Dakota State University and they married in 1952. Together, they had four children: Stephen, Gwen, Myrna and Anita. They lived in several communities in eastern South Dakota and southern Minnesota before settling in Ruthven, Iowa in 1968.

Erma’s family was her pride and joy. The cookie jar was always full, and the large gardens she and Wesley tended every summer provided significant produce for the kitchen table and for canning, with enough green beans and tomato sauce and juice for the entire winter. She was an accomplished seamstress and her beautiful quilts are prized possessions of her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

As her children grew older, Erma became librarian at the Ruthven Public Library, where she encouraged reading by children and adults alike, often thinking of specific people in the community when she ordered books. She created a children’s summer reading program and took book carts to the local retirement home to make it easy for seniors to borrow library books.

Erma was a natural community volunteer. She kept her eye out for seniors in the community who needed a visit or a helping hand. She often checked in on neighbors who would benefit from a friendly conversation or who might need help. She was an active volunteer as a 4H leader, a Sunday school teacher and through other community and church activities. She and Wesley were long-time members of the United Methodist Church.

Erma loved to socialize and made friends wherever she lived, including at Carrington Point, here in Fairfield, where she and Wesley moved after their retirement.

Erma was preceded in death by her parents, her husband Wesley Johnson and her son Stephen Johnson. She is survived by her sister Jean Phyllis Strayer; daughters Gwen (James) Pedrick, Myrna Johnson (Robert Sunderman), Anita Johnson (David Gardner); grandchildren Stephen (Afton) Pedrick, David Pedrick, Benjamin Gardner and Matthew Gardner; great grandchildren Anne and John Pedrick; and many nieces and nephews.

A memorial service to celebrate her life will begin at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, January 26, 2024, at the Cranston Family Funeral Home in Fairfield, IA with Pastor Al Coffin officiating.  Burial will be held at a later date in the Mt. Moriah Cemetery near Douds, IA.  The family will be present to greet friends from 5:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, January 25, 2024, at the Cranston Family Funeral Home in Fairfield.  Memorial contributions in Erma’s honor may be directed to the Ruthven Public Library or to the donor’s choice and may be mailed c/o Gwen Pedrick, 14654 Morrow St., Douds, IA 52551.  Friends may leave online condolences or join the livestream of the service at

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