Corinne Louise (Rodning) Johnson, of St. Peter, died peacefully on Nov. 24, 2019 with her family surrounding her. The intensely devoted wife, mother and community servant was 87. Robert Evan Johnson, of St. Peter, died peacefully on Nov. 25, 2019 at the age of 88 with his family surrounding him. He was a man rooted in faith, family, farming and fun.
The opening lines of two obituaries in the Dec. 5 St. Peter Herald fit together beautifully. And they very well should.
Corinne and Robert Johnson were married for 68 years before they died one day apart. After marrying at the ages of 19 and 20, building a life together, raising a family together and moving into retirement together, it seemed only fitting that they should leave together.
Robert was born on August 10th, 1931 and was the middle son of Chester and Lena (Renneke) Johnson. He grew up on a farm in Nicollet County and graduated from District 6 and Gaylord High School in 1949, where he was a standout football player and ran the mile in track.
Corinne was born on Dec. 6, 1931 and was the oldest daughter of Sven Clarence and Cora (Knutson) Rodning. She grew up on a farm in Nicollet County and graduated from District 13 and St. Peter High School in 1949. Corinne received her teaching degree from Mankato Teaching College and moved to Cartwright, North Dakota where she taught in a one-room school for a year before moving back to Norseland.
The reason she came back home was to marry her brother Harold’s best friend: Robert. The two wed on Oct. 20, 1951 at Norseland Lutheran Church. Robert had spent most of the wedding day harvesting in the fields with his brother Jerry before appearing at the altar. It was something Corinne would need to get used to.
Building a life together
They moved into an apartment above Swenson’s Norseland General Store while Robert drove truck for them. He loved to recount stories about his driving routes to the Twin Cities when he hauled eggs for the store.
It was only a year before the couple had moved to Norseland Eastview Farm. This is where they would spend the next 67 years, raising cows, pigs, chickens, corns, soybeans, wheat, alfalfa and a bunch of children. Mark Johnson, Bruce Johnson, Beth Kinkeade, Rita Leonard, Kirk Johnson, Brent Johnson and Lora Dennis were born and raised in the home.
Specifically on the farm, the family milked 32 cows, raised Hampshire pigs and chickens, while growing the crops.
“Robert’s hands were evidence he was a hard worker on the farm but he always made time to be there for his seven children,” his obituary read. “He would milk the cows at all hours of the night in order to go to his children’s sporting events.”
The pair were devoted to their children. They put thousands of miles on their car to watch their kids participate in sporting and other extra-curricular events. They traveled thousands of miles across southern Minnesota to watch their kids compete. They even earned a lifetime pass to Nicollet High School home events.
Robert loved his extended family, too. Known as “Bud” and “Uncle Bud” to his in-laws and nieces and nephews, he often cut the boys’ hair in the back entry of their house.
Both Robert and Corinne were committed to community, too.
Robert served on the Scandian Grove Lutheran Church Board and Cemetery Board for 19 years, the Nicollet School Board, the Land O’Lakes Regional Board and helped start the Nicollet County Pork Producers. Corinne served as a Sunday School teacher and choir member at Scandian Grove and was its first female church board member. She also served as a 4-H leader in Norseland.
To the very end
Even after the kids left the home, Robert and Corinne stayed active.
Robert continued farming for many years. After retiring from farming, Robert devoted himself to visiting and following the activities of his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren around the country. His pride for his family was evident with every birth, baptism, confirmation, graduation and wedding.
After raising her children, Corinne decided to put her endless farmer’s wife energy into working at Pillsbury Green Giant, ADC, Traverse Elevator and the Norseland Creamery. She too remained committed to her children and then grandchildren.
While the two were never far apart, both did have their hobbies.
Robert was quick-witted and clever, always ready for a joke or a laugh. You could often find him lingering after church on Sunday, visiting with a friend or neighbor. He loved a good bowl of popcorn soaked in butter, shared with his kids or an episode of Johnny Carson. And he never said no to a bowl of ice cream, even licking the bowl clean.
Corinne cherished the women in her card club. Over 60-plus years, she and her friends took a monthly break from their hectic lives to play 500, laugh and share stories of their families. She also loved studying scripture with her Bible study groups. Corinne loved to cook and bake for friends and family and was known for her homemade bread, lefse, cinnamon rolls and Swedish tea rings. She also enjoyed gardening, canning and sewing clothes for her family and quilts for Scandian Grove.
But ultimately what Robert and Corinne always had was each other.
“Corinne and Robert spent more than 68 years together and took great pride in their family and became each other’s physical and mental support in later years,” the children wrote in their parents’ obituaries. “It seems only fitting that they would both pass into eternal life together, surrounded by those who loved them.”