Obituary: Betty Thresher Johnson

Beloved matriarch, lifetime learner, traveler

Betty Louise Thresher was born in Hampden, Massachusetts on February 7, 1935. She departed this life April 4 at her home in Nipomo, peacefully, gracefully, and surrounded by the love of her family.

From childhood, Betty was a leader, trailblazer, and lifelong learner. In high school, she was chosen as the representative to American Legion Auxiliary Girl’s State and to host the state governor at New England’s Eastern States Exposition. She was a Rainbow Girls Worthy Advisor, graduated from Commerce High School in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1952, and later served as president of the Jaycettes.

On September 17, 1955, she married her forever love, Donald “Bud” Johnson in East Longmeadow, Massachusetts, where they settled and had three children before moving to California in 1970 for Bud’s work.

“Sixty-six years of marriage only added to the sparkle in their eyes and their love for impromptu dances,” her family shared. “Betty loved and served her family well, all while continuing to lead and learn.”

In 1984, at age 49, she graduated magna cum laude from Cal Poly Pomona. She went on to work as a docent at the Huntington Library, receiving a scholarship to study the works of Charles Dickens at Cambridge University in England. She served the Philanthropic Education Organization (PEO) for more than 40 years. Her love for learning and teaching others was extraordinary and inspiring.

When the kids were grown, she and her husband began exploring the world. Seven trips with the nonprofit educational travel organization Road Scholar took them to Scandinavia, Italy, Hungary, Scotland and more. But perhaps the most cherished destinations were grandkids’ Little League games and school plays. “Whether down the street or hours away, Betty would be there, beside her beloved Bud, smiling proudly,” her family said.

She was an accomplished artist, painting everything from soft landscapes to her three children. She was also, from age seven, a devoted member of her church choir.

Family was her greatest treasure. She delighted in gathering as many generations as she could under one roof. She was often telling stories of family ancestors or was behind the camera, capturing moments for the generations to come. “She taught all just how important family is and, with Bud, built a strong foundation of love for her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren,” her family added.

She is survived by her husband, Donald; children Jeff (Sharon) Johnson, Debby Lee (Dennis) Marchiano, and Greg (Valerie) Johnson; nine grandchildren; fourteen great-grandchildren (with two on the way); and her sister, Ruth (Wendell) Hockersmith.

A celebration of life will be held at a later date at First United Methodist Church of Arroyo Grande.

In lieu of flowers, donations in her honor may be made to First United Methodist Church of Arroyo Grande Endowment Fund at


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