Kenneth Edward Johnson, affectionately known to many as “PaPa,” went home to be with Jesus on October 8, 2021, where he was reunited with many of his loved ones in heaven. Born in Dutch Mills, Arkansas on Sept. 10, 1924 to Jake and Kate Johnson, at 97, Kenneth was the last of their nine children to pass away. He loved the hills, trees, hollers and bluffs along the Baron Fork Creek where he grew up. In his last days, even with severe dementia, he would often ask, “how are the folks around Dutch Mills doing?” It must have been (and still is) a special community.
Like so many young men at that time in our history, he defended our freedom during World War II. He bravely fought in the Pacific Theater with the 158th Infantry Regimental Combat Team, “The Bushmasters,” of whom General Douglas MacArthur declared, “No greater fighting team ever deployed for battle.” He told his mother, “I’ll be home after I walk the streets of Tokyo,” which he did. He was the recipient of two Purple Hearts and truly one of the “greatest generation” the USA has ever known.
Growing up in Dutch Mills, he attended Liberty Baptist Church with his family. But it was not until he was in a foxhole in combat that he gave his life to Jesus with these words, “Lord, you get me out of this and I will serve you all of my life!” He faithfully fulfilled that promise to Jesus.
After the war, he married his sweetheart from Stilwell, Oklahoma, Eleanor Augusta Patterson, on August 7, 1948, in Fayetteville, Ark. They were married 73 years. Kenneth graduated from Okmulgee Tech and worked for the International Harvester truck dealer (Navistar) in Tulsa for almost 40 years. He served faithfully as a deacon and church member of Sheridan Road Baptist Church, where he and Eleanor were members since 1953. He helped maintain and drive the church buses taking kids to Sunday School.
We remember his witty sayings, such as, “If you want to save money, you better stay out of the stores,” and “The shortest pencil is better than the longest memory.” We remember how he would tease everyone, especially Eleanor, and how he had a nickname for many of us. We remember his love for the outdoors. We remember his big, strong hands that could fix almost anything, and his beautiful, baritone voice. We remember his quiet courage and steadfast resolve in the face of many of life’s struggles and sorrows. And we remember his practical, solid faith in Jesus Christ and his word, the foundation of his life. He read scripture daily. Even with advanced dementia in the last six months of his life, he could pray The Lord’s Prayer.
Kenneth is survived by his wife, Eleanor; his daughter, Darla Turner and her husband Karl; his daughter, Leatrice Sue Johnson, all from Tulsa; and his son, William Johnson and his wife Julie from Colorado. Kenneth is survived by five grandchildren, Brett Sanders, Paul Sanders, Karis Johnson, Kristen Johnson and Kyle Johnson; six great-grandchildren and two great-great grandchildren. He is also survived by one brother-in-law, Donald Wright of Dutch Mills, and many nieces, nephews, relatives and friends. Funeral services to honor Kenneth’s life will be held at Hart Funeral Home, Stilwell, Oklahoma, on Wednesday, Oct. 13, at 2 p.m. Interment will be at Pilgrim’s Rest Cemetery near Stilwell.