Orpha Dee Bird Johnson passed away at the age of 95, on August 25, 2020 having witnessed an era of history with unparalleled change. Born June 3, 1925 shortly before the Great Depression, she started life in a time when horses were still the main mode of transportation. Her mother, Lenore (Banks) Bird, died when Orpha Dee was 11 months old. Orpha Dee lived on a farm with her family where she learned to keep a garden, store food for the winter via canning or cellar storage, keep chickens, and irrigate. These tasks became an integral part of her life. At age 14 , she moved in with her sister, Lillian, in Springville during her high school years She graduated from Springville High School in 1943 and took a job at a title company until she married Frank C. Johnson, an Army Air Corps Cadet on leave, whom she met at a dance The couple moved to their lifetime home in Mapleton where they worked hard to build their own home and farm. Together they converted a bare patch of sagebrush into a unique home with extensive gardens, orchards, and many quirky and charming outbuildings. She raised 5 children before starting a career as a school secretary, working first for Springville Junior High, then Brookside Elementary, and finally Art City Elementary for many years. Through those years, she nurtured many students, providing advice, support, and bandaids in equal measure.
Orpha Dee loved Mapleton. She organized the planting of maple trees all along Main Street, and she was active in city politics and service. She had a vast talent for genealogy with many relatives living in Mapleton and was a member of Daughters of the Utah Pioneers. The Mapleton Heritage Center benefitted greatly from her encyclopedic knowledge of Mapleton's history. She served as the chorister at Mapleton church for 10 years and was renowned for her beautiful singing voice. Often, she performed for various local elementary schools and groups. She would sing old songs from the 1890s wearing a collection of vibrant dresses and wide-brim hats covered with flowers, feathers and faux birds. She wore one of these incredible outfits to her 80th birthday "Old Timey" gala, when she held a huge party and invited the entire town. Over 200 people celebrated and danced. At the time of her passing she was the oldest living resident born and raised in Mapleton.
Children: Brenda Siracusan, Wendell (deceased, spouse Susan) Johnson, Paul (Janet) Johnson, Morris (Julie) Johnson, and Sylvia (deceased). She is survived by 2 sisters AnnaMae Wardle and Maureen (Robert) Allan; 13 grandchildren and 21 great grandchildren.
A viewing for family and friends will be held Friday, August 28, 2020 from 6-8 pm at Wheeler Mortuary, 211 East 200 South in Springville. There will be a graveside service on Saturday, August 29, 2020 at 11:00 at Springville Evergreen Cemetery 1997 South 400 East. For full obituary please visit www.wheelermortuary.com.
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