Mary Ella Johnson, age 98, passed away on January 17, 2023, in San Luis Obispo, California. Mary Ella died peacefully under the loving care of Welcome Home RCFE and Central Coast Hospice from the effects of an acute cerebral stroke.
Mary was preceded in death by her parents, Lloyd and Garnet Culver of Paso Robles, her uncle and aunt, Howard and Hazel Peters of Glendale, CA, her aunt Fern Peters of Costa Mesa, CA, her daughter Teresa Casey of Paso Robles, husband, Harold “Johnny” Johnson of Bandon, Oregon, her brother, Donald Culver of Paso Robles, Donald’s daughter, Karen Culver, and her Sister-in-Law, Sandra Culver of Paso Robles.
Mary is survived by her brother, Milton Culver, of Paso Robles, her sons and their wives, Ronald and Mary Lou Johnson, of San Luis Obispo, and Wesley and Sue Johnson, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, her Grandson and his wife, James, and Elena Johnson, of Idaho Falls, Idaho, Granddaughter, Lissa Johnson, of Albuquerque, Great Granddaughter, Melia Krikorian, of Albuquerque, and Great Grandson, Connor Johnson, of Idaho Falls. Her surviving nephews and nieces include Fred and Denise Culver and children, Bill and Robin Culver, Mitch and Stella Culver and children, all of Paso Robles, and Donna and David Hingtgen and children of Ponca City, Oklahoma.
Mary Ella was born in a little cottage on the grounds of what is now the Adventist Health Center Hospital in Glendale, California. As a Culver, she was a direct descendent of Edward Colver, who arrived in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the fall of 1635. Her father, Lloyd Culver, was a home builder, and during her early years, the family moved a number of times as new homes were built and briefly occupied. When Mary Ella was eight years old, the family moved to a house on Kenneth Rd. in Glendale. Mary’s parents also purchased a cabin in the San Bernardino Mountains at Crestline and another later at Lake Arrowhead. At age thirteen, Mary Ella entered the Marybelle School for Girls in Azusa, CA, a boarding school which she attended for three years. She had noticed that the girls at the school were riding horses while the family drove by on the way to the mountains, so she lobbied her parents to let her attend the school. While at the Marybelle school, Mary learned to be a proper young lady. She also enjoyed ballet, tap dancing, and, of course, riding horses. When Mary was sixteen, the family moved to La Cañada, CA. She and her brothers attended Hoover High School in Glendale, and Mary learned to drive so she could take her brothers to school. After graduating from Hoover High, Mary attended an art college in Los Angeles but dropped out in early 1945.
Mary Ella married in 1945, and by the time 1950 rolled around, she had a house in La Crescenta, CA, a divorce, and three children under the age of five to raise. On Friday, January 13, 1956, Mary Ella married Harold “Johnny” Johnson, whom she always described as her soul mate and the love of her life. The new family moved shortly thereafter to Balboa, CA. In 1960 the family moved to Paso Robles and went into partnership with Milton and Sandra Culver on a ranch on Buena Vista Drive. Mary worked a few years as a bank teller and then as a seamstress for a dress shop in town. On the ranch, she was always the one who took care of the orphaned baby animals and fed many a bottle of milk on the ranch house’s back porch. She produced some of the best coffee around, which she attributed to the good water from the well. Her annual Pioneer Day BBQ at the ranch on the evening of Pioneer Day was famous and drew friends from all over.
With the children raised and married and retirement looming, Mary and Johnny sold their interest in the ranch and moved to Malad City, Idaho. After a few years, winters proved just too cold, so they purchased land and built a house just outside of the coastal community of Bandon, Oregon. She had a beautiful house and property in Bandon, and she enjoyed it immensely. Several years after Johnny passed away, Mary sold the house in Bandon and returned to Paso Robles, where Wes and Sue Johnson helped her with her daily needs until they moved to Albuquerque. Mary then moved to San Luis Obispo, where Ron and Mary Lou Johnson looked after her during her long-term care.
In her younger years, Mary Ella enjoyed boating, camping, hunting, and fishing. She rode horses in the San Fernando Valley when it was just farms and fields of wild mustard. She camped at Red’s Meadows in the Sierra with her family for an entire summer. She sailed her little Geary 18’ “Flattie” and piloted the family’s Chris Craft runabout on Lake Arrowhead. She caught albacore in the Catalina Channel. She packed into the High Sierra to hunt deer. She tent-camped throughout California for two complete summers with Johnny and her children.
At home, Mary Ella always had a hobby going on: ceramics, china painting, oil painting, toll painting, embroidery, doll making, egg decorating, miniatures, quilting, and sewing, to name a few. She was good at all of them, but most of all, she was a highly skilled seamstress. For many years Mary made costumes for the Paso Robles Pioneer Players and also worked as a seamstress. She could sew anything whether she had a pattern or not. Mary was a long-time member of the Beta Sigma Phi sorority and enjoyed her sorority sisters and her many friends wherever she lived.
Friends and family are welcome to join in a celebration of life at 11:30 AM Saturday, February 11, at La Bellasera Hotel & Suites, 206 Alexa Court, Paso Robles, CA 93446. Her ashes will join those of her husband in the ocean near the lighthouse on the Coquille River in Bandon, Oregon.