Catherine Johnson

Gracious host, nature-lover, world traveler

Catherine Perry Johnson, a longtime Claremont resident, died in Hayden, Idaho on August 21, 2013 of Alzheimer’s disease. She was 86.

Ms. Johnson was born on October 25, 1926 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and resided in Claremont with her family from 1966 until 2008. She met her husband, Carl E. Johnson, while studying art in Mexico, where Mr. Johnson was taking a winter vacation from the oil fields in Wyoming where he worked. They were engaged two weeks after being introduced by mutual friends. They moved to southern California and then to Claremont, where they raised their two daughters.

Ms. Johnson loved cooking and entertaining, and her dinner parties were legendary and often spontaneous. There was always room for one more guest, and those far from home were always given a special place at the table. She loved to dance and would ask foreign visitors to teach her a dance from their country, much to the horror of her children and the delight of the guest.

She enjoyed being outdoors in all types of weather, and continuously mentioned that she was lucky to have settled in Claremont where she could be outside every day. She thought nothing of walking from her home on North Towne Avenue with her small daughters to downtown Claremont every weekend and most days during the summer. Ms. Johnson decided to learn to drive a car when she was in her 40s, but still insisted on walking whenever possible. 

In addition, when she was working, she tried to walk at least once a month to Pomona Valley Hospital where she worked in the laboratory. She also relearned how to ride a bike at the age of 50 and rode with friends from Claremont to Newport Beach. She and her dog were fixtures during the early-morning hours on the bike path and she found her mountain lion, coyote and rattlesnake sightings amusing and loved that the “wild out of doors” was right in her backyard.

She often would hike for hours in the mountains around the family cabin at Mt. Baldy with her homemade granola in her pocket, a canteen from Army-Navy surplus at her hip and her red windbreaker tied around her waist.

Ms. Johnson was trained in bacteriology and worked in several hospital laboratories in Philadelphia after she graduated from high school. She continued to educate herself in science, taking numerous courses in math and physics at Citrus College and Cal Poly Pomona just for fun.

Ms. Johnson was an avid lover of nature and supported numerous animal and wildlife societies such as the Humane Society, Audubon Society and various botanical gardens. Regardless of where she was in the world, she would make a trip to the local gardens.

Ms. Johnson was fortunate to have traveled the world, and was in awe of the beauty of everywhere she went. She thought that music, dance and food united all human beings. She felt it was important to say “hello,” “how are you?” and “time to eat” in as many languages as possible.

“When you were with her, you felt as if she saw, heard and sensed so much of the physical world around her, and delighted in it,” her family shared. “And, you felt that the world was good.”

Ms. Johnson is preceded in death by her husband, Carl E. Johnson, and her four younger siblings. She is survived by her two daughters and their husbands, Nell and Joseph Dalton of Caldwell, Idaho and Anne and James Wahl of Hayden, Idaho, by three grandchildren and by two great-grandchildren.

She requested cremation and to have her ashes scattered.



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