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Obituary: Dr. Jerome Linne Johnson, Molly Ann Rideout Johnson

Couple lived in Claremont for 60 of their 68 years of marriage

Dr. Jerome (Joe) Linne Johnson and Molly Ann Rideout Johnson were buried together at Oak Park Cemetery in Claremont on June 27, on what would have been their 69th wedding anniversary.

Dr. Johnson, who was a resident of Pilgrim Place Health Services Center since 2012, died May 24, 2020, at age 90. Molly was a resident of Claremont Manor Summer House since Sept. 2020 and was 91 when she died March 7, 2022.

Attending the private graveside service were their son, William (Bill) Rideout Johnson of Claremont; daughter, Susan Rideout Johnson of Colfax, California; grandson, Brendon William Nowels, and his wife, Emily Tyler Nowels, of Folsom, California; Molly’s sister, Joan (Rideout) Phillips, and her daughter and son-in-law, Sarah and Mike Scheuber.

Joe was born June 19, 1929, and was raised in Rockford, Illinois, a second-generation Swedish immigrant. As a child, he loved riding his bike, sledding, playing sports, and seeking out adventures. He played the bassoon, basketball, and football at Rockford High School.

In fall 1946 he received a full academic scholarship to the University of Chicago, which had recently adopted the Great Books curriculum, studying written works of Greek philosophers and poets. It was life changing.

He was a member of Psi Upsilon fraternity, where one’s status was determined by how many times one could “shoot the moon” in the card game hearts. At the “U of C,” he played intramural basketball with his dorm-mates, until he was spotted by the varsity coach during his sophomore year and recruited to play center on the team. He was fondly nicknamed “jumping Joe” by his teammates.

From 1950 to 1954 he attended Northwestern Medical School, where he was a member of the Phi Chi medical fraternity. It was during medical school that he met Molly Ann Rideout on a blind double-date with his brother, Tom.

Molly was born July 31, 1930, and raised in Freeport, Illinois. She was of French and German heritage. As a child, she enjoyed working in the yard with her father, driving their small tractor, playing competitive Ping-Pong, and motor-boating on the Mississippi River with her family. She also loved family vacations at George William’s College Camp on Lake Geneva in Wisconsin, where she later worked during the summers. At Freeport High School, she played the flute and piano.

She attended Rockford College, graduating in the spring of 1953 with honors as the school’s May queen. While at Rockford, she served as president of many organizations and was very active in the National Student Association and the International Relation’s Club. As part of the NSA, she lived and studied abroad in Amsterdam. With the IRC she served as a member of the Rockford College seminar at the United Nations during Eleanor Roosevelt’s tenure as a delegate of the general assembly. Mrs. Roosevelt became one of her heroes.

The couple married on June 27, 1953, soon after she graduated from Rockford College. They moved to Chicago, where he was finishing his medical school training at Northwestern. He then completed a medical internship at the University of Chicago in 1955 before starting an internal medicine residency back at Northwestern. She set her educational aspirations aside to financially support them and cover his medical school costs, joining the staff of the McCormick YWCA in Chicago and later working as the administrative secretary for Dr. Loyal Davis, chief of the neurosurgery department at Northwestern.

After completing his first year of residency, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy, serving as a lieutenant commander from July 1956 to January 1958. Near the end of the Korean War, he served as the physician on the vessels Frederick Funston and William Mitchell, which delivered troops to Okinawa, Japan, and the Philippines. He was later the physician for seven transport ships that carried fuel oil above Point Barrow, Alaska, supporting the Distant Early Warning Line. He wrote several poems about these harrowing experiences, including one of his favorites, “Lost in the Arctic,” where he nearly lost his life.

The couple’s first child, Susan, was born in Seattle, Washington in October 1957, while he was at sea. After he received an honorable discharge from the Navy in January 1958, the new family returned to Chicago so he could finish his residency at Northwestern.

In 1960, after completing his medical education, the family moved to Claremont, where Dr. Johnson joined the Fisher-Hauch Medical Clinic, located across the street from Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center. In August 1962 the family was blessed with the arrival of a son, Bill, who was born at Pomona Valley.

In addition to enjoying his practice, Dr. Johnson taught cardiology at USC, which led to his lifelong love for USC football. He attended the home games with his family (especially his son and grandson) and would watch the away games on television whenever possible, filling the family room of their home with loud infectious shouts and cheers.

After spending a summer visiting cardiologist Sir Aubrey Leatham at St. George’s Hospital in London, he helped design the first coronary care unit at PVHMC. He then traveled to Uppsala University in Sweden, where they were doing state-of-the-art research in cardiology. He later became a fellow of the American College of Cardiology and a fellow of the American College of Internal Medicine.

He was an active member of the American Heart Association and served as its president (while receiving organizational and hands-on assistance from his wife). He also taught CPR classes in Claremont for the American Red Cross. The couple donated a defibrillator to the Claremont United Church of Christ and trained congregants on to how use it.

He was frequently “fined” as a member of the Pomona Host Lions Club because he missed so many lunchtime meetings. He was also a member of the University Club of Claremont.

When Dr. Johnson was off call, he could be found swimming in the family’s backyard pool playing Marco Polo with his children; walking the dogs around the block; photographing nature, especially flowers and hummingbirds; taking family bike rides; and reading medical journals. He taught his children how to shoot baskets, play the “bear hug game,” all the card games he loved, and chess.

His children always wanted him to read their favorite book, “Doris and the Trolls,” or make up a bedtime story. The world provided such awe and wonder for him; he was just as thrilled seeing Orion’s belt and the Big Dipper as they were when he pointed out the constellations in the night sky.

The family took marathon summer car trips from California to the Grand Tetons, and often drove all the way to Freeport and Rockford, Illinois to visit grandparents. They loved visiting national parks, especially eating fresh-caught rainbow trout at the Driftwood Lodge in Zion National Park and rafting down the Snake River in the Grand Tetons.

He and his son loved to body surf, and several times went camping and deep-sea fishing. He and his daughter enjoyed reading the Claremont COURIER, attending summer concerts at Memorial Park, and watching the Fourth of July parade. But their favorite place was relaxing in their backyard, swimming, watching and listening to birds, and drinking fresh-squeezed lemonade from their tree.

While he was at work, Mrs. Johnson held everything together at home, supporting the family through many health crises with her resilience, utter determination and strong will. She was the intuitive one, especially in perceiving others’ emotions, and was the problem solver, staying focused on the big picture. He was detailed-oriented, and when it came to diagnosing unusual medical conditions, he was the “Sherlock Holmes” among his medical colleagues. She had an interior decorator’s sense of space, color, simplicity, proportion and natural beauty, and was an excellent, creative cook. He loved astronomy and all the mysteries of the universe, and he was the family barbeque chef.

She served as president on the national staff of Camp Fire Girls and was the director of the Mt. San Antonio College President’s Advisory Council. In 1973, she was awarded the Luther Halsey Gulick award for outstanding council leadership. She was part of the L.A. Philharmonic’s Music Mobile, traveling to elementary schools with a van full of musical instruments to show to and play for the children. She was also her daughter’s beloved troupe leader for the Bluebirds.

She served as the first female president of Pilgrim Place Corporation from 1982 to April 1984, advocating for the building of its health service center, which allowed longtime residents to stay on when they couldn’t be cared for in their homes. From 2000 to 2003 she served as the first woman elected to the L.A. County Fair Association Board of Directors. She was the founding chairperson of the Fairplex Child Development Center, helping, with the University of La Verne, to co-create the early childhood center. In 2010 she was awarded the “spirit of the fair” sculpture, honoring her contributions. She was also a longstanding member, and often president, of Chapter O of PEO, a philanthropic organization celebrating the advancement of women.

The couple loved singing in the choir, first at Pilgrim Congregational Church in Pomona, then later at CUCC. She sang alto and he sang baritone and bass. They both enjoyed performing classical concerts at churches in Austria with the CUCC choir. At home they loved singing the “oldies but goodies” from the 1930s through the ‘60’s, starting with “Boop Boop Didem Dattem Wattem Chu,” all the way to “Moon River” and “The Impossible Dream,” with Mrs. Johnson’s   accompaniment on piano. She also loved playing classical music on both piano and flute, performing many times at Pilgrim Congregational Church. He especially loved singing “Old Man River,” using the deepest and lowest tones of his register.

Both loved playing bridge and traveling. They took several medical trips to China to facilitate American and Chinese good will, with Dr. Johnson giving lectures in cardiology and internal medicine and providing hands-on training for Chinese physicians. The couple also hosted two beloved Japanese exchange students.

Dr. Johnson opened a private practice near PVHMC, with his wife running the front office, until he retired after being injured in a serious bicycle accident.

He then began taking classes from legendary Claremont sculptor Betty Davenport Ford. He soon filled their home with three-foot dolphins, sea lions, a sculpted bust of their grandson, and an exquisite chess set, where each piece was represented by a uniquely sculpted dolphin. He won a first prize ribbon at the L.A. County Fair for his dolphin chess set.

“On the morning of their anniversary and day of their burial, Bill drove Joe and Molly’s ashes up to the parking lot of the Mt. Baldy ski lift for one last mountain trip,” the couple’s family shared. “This car trip was in remembrance of the first family car trip to the Mt. Baldy Ski Lift (when Bill was in-utero). During that fateful trip, the car brakes gave out on that steep and winding descent. Joe intermittently used the emergency brake and drove on rocky overlooks as a way to keep slowing the car down. The family gratefully lived to tell that story, and Joe converted his love for his green, wing-backed, 1960s Chevrolet, to the more reliable and safe Swedish Volvo!”

Tax-deductible donations in honor of Dr. Jerome Johnson and/or Molly Johnson, can be made to the Fairplex Child Development Center at https://fairplex.com/tlcfairplex/tlc-donate, or by check to Alexis Gordillo, Child Development Center, 1101 W. McKinley Ave., Pomona, CA 91768; Pilgrim Place at https://www.pilgrimplace.org/giving, or by check to Lisa Grater, Advancement Coordinator, Pilgrim Place, 625 Mayflower Rd., Claremont, CA 91711; the Front Porch Communities Foundation’s Claremont Manor Summer House at https://frontporch.net/philanthropy/donate/, or by check, with Claremont Manor Summer House in the memo line, to Front Porch Communities Foundation, 800 N. Brand Blvd., Floor 19, Glendale, CA 91203; or to the Claremont COURIER at https://claremont-courier.com/donations/, or by check to Claremont Courier Inc., 114 Olive St., Claremont, CA 91711.

Dr. Jerome (Joe) Linne Johnson and Molly Ann Rideout Johnson

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