Neal Johnson, 62, of Miller, found triumphant peace with the Lord on Friday, January 1, 2016 at the Avera Hand County Memorial Hospital, Miller, after courageously battling cancer.
Funeral service were held at 11:00 a.m., Wednesday, January 6, 2016 at the First Presbyterian Church, Miller with Rev. Brian Jones officiating. Visitation was held from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m., Tuesday, January 5, 2016 with a 7:00 p.m. prayer service, all at the church.
Neal’s Story: A Tale in Love, Life, and Laughter.
Neal Aaron Johnson was born November 24, 1953 to Wallace and Darlene Johnson in Miller, SD.
Though his 62 years on Earth are denoted by a dash, Neal’s life will forever be measured by far more.
A rancher, fisherman, and hunter, Neal lived his life fully with a strong head and a soft heart. He was a competitive soul with a tenacious drive for quality and toughness—traits you could see whether he was driving a race car, building a cow herd, or fighting cancer.
You could count on his truth even when it hurt, and you could count on his love even when he couldn’t express it.
To his parents, Neal was a dedicated son carrying on a family tradition. To his older brother Craig and younger sisters Brenda and Kim, Neal was a protector and an instigator, often reminding them he “smiled because he was their brother and laughed because there was nothing they could do about it.”
After attending country school in South Hand and graduating from Miller High School in 1972, Neal enrolled at SDSU. He returned to the family farm after one semester. Neal once said, “This ranch is where I’ve always wanted to be. My goal from the beginning has been to be on the land and share what we’ve built with kids and grandkids.”
He was not meant to build a future alone, and on March 22, 1975, Neal married Janet Holt in Orient, SD. He dubbed his wife the best help around and called her patience—with both him and animals—“simply amazing”. For just over 40 years, the pair worked alongside Wally and Darlene to create a legacy for their family. Over all their other success, Neal called the couple’s three girls, Stephanie, Melissa, and Ashley, “their greatest accomplishment.”
Neal’s boisterous laugh, dry humor, and contagious smile will be missed. His gruff voice when you’d done wrong will be remembered. His appreciation for life’s finery will be cherished. His affinity for a good joke, buttered lobster, a wild beard, wind pants and untied tennis shoes will never be forgotten.
The void left by Neal’s absence will be felt deeply by all who continue to love him, including: parents, Wally and Darlene and wife, Janet; daughters: Stephanie (Matt) Cavenee of Bonesteel, Melissa (Ryan) Hegg of Madison, and Ashley Johnson of Watertown; grandsons, Cole and Mark Cavenee and Sawyer and Kale Hegg; brother, Craig (Louise) Johnson of Sioux Falls; sisters, Brenda (Neil) Duxbury of Wessington and Kim (Jim) Petik of Keldron; uncles and aunts Lowell and Donna Droz of Miller, Mark and Bernadine Johnson of San Diego, Raymond Graham of Wichita, Carroll Morford of Highmore, and Betty Johnson of Kansas City; brothers-in-law, Theron Holt and Warner Holt of Orient and Lyle Nichols of Palisade, CO; sister-in-law, Mary (Bob) Roesler of Hotchkiss, CO plus many nieces, nephews, great-nieces and nephews, cousins, and friends.
Awaiting Neal in Heaven were his paternal and maternal grandparents; uncles and aunts: Clemmet and Vivian Johnson, Earl Johnson, Margaret Morford, Jerrold and Irene Johnson, Harold Johnson, Mary Graham; special cousin, Laura Eskandarion; parents-in-law, Sheldon and Mabel Holt; and sister-in-law, Phyllis Nichols.
In his own words, Neal reminds us not to get lost in the sorrow of death but to live in the hope of life: “Calving has to be my favorite time of year. It’s a new beginning. Things aren’t always good. Sometimes, bad stuff goes down. But, seeing those baby calves hit the ground reminds me there’s always a new day, a new start and always something to be grateful for.”
Reck Funeral Home of Miller has been entrusted with Neal’s arrangements.