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Pastor Earl D. Johnson, Dell Rapids, surrounded by his family, passed away late Thursday, May 24, 2018 at the Bethany Home in Brandon after a long battle with several illnesses. Visitation will be on Monday, May 28, 2018 from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. in the Lutheran Church of Dell Rapids. His Funeral Service will begin at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, May 29, 2018 in the Lutheran Church of Dell Rapids. Interment will be in the Willow Creek Cemetery, rural Dell Rapids.
Earl was born on July 18, 1940 on the family farm near Trimont, Minnesota, to Arne and Ragnal Johnson. On the farm Earl lived with his parents, six siblings and a grandmother. Early education was at Pleasant Hill #115 country school nearby, then to Truman High School, Truman, Minnesota in seventh grade. He graduated in 1958. For three years Earl farmed with his father, then decided on attending Concordia College, Moorhead. It was there that the Spirit pushed and prodded and he went to Luther Seminary in St. Paul after his graduation from college, with plans on becoming a pastor.
In the meantime he met his “Beautiful Brown Eyes,” Linda Christensen from Forestburg, South Dakota. They were married June 24, 1967 at Forestburg Lutheran Church.
After the first two years of seminary training, Earl was fortunate to serve his year of internship in a mission church at Royal City, Washington. Returning to seminary, he graduated in 1970. While studying, he also had a small house painting company, specializing in “big houses no one else wanted to paint.” Linda taught elementary music in several schools during those years.
Earl’s first Call was to Trinity Lutheran, Fowler, Colorado, on the Arkansas River. It was a terrific church for a rookie pastor. While there Carl Arne and Elizabeth Rae were born in nearby Pueblo. American Lutheran in Gothenberg, Nebraska was his second Call, as Associate Pastor, in 1975. Two years later he was asked to start a mission congregation in LaSalle, Colorado. Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran slowly grew, meeting in an old school band room. Son Andrew Mark was born in nearby Greeley.
Ulcerated vocal cords cropped up, necessitating a move to a more humid climate. In 1983 Earl accepted a Call as Associate Pastor in the Lutheran Church of Dell Rapids and rural Willow Creek Lutheran. A year later he became Administrative Pastor. Earl served in this position for the next eight years. In 1985 he worked with three lay women from the community to organize the local Food Pantry. He and three others met at Volga Lutheran in 1984 to work with the Family Farm Organizing Research Center from St. Paul. After several meetings the grass roots movement Dakota Rural Action was formed. He served several years as the first Director of the Dell Rapids Community Foundation, established in 1998.
In 1992 Earl resigned from LCDR due to worsening vocal problems. After reconstructive surgery at the Mayo Clinic he was able to continue as pastor in 1994, serving Benton Lutheran, rural Crooks. A merger with Willow Creek occurred in 2000. Thus, he was installed at Willow twice! Within a 30 mile radius Pastor Earl Johnson preached in 21 churches plus 12 more elsewhere in the state. Some of these were interim churches he served upon “retirement” in 2005.
Grateful for sharing his life are his wife Linda, son Carl and Kathy – Tyler, Cole, Trevor of Sioux Falls, daughter Elizabeth of Dell Rapids, son Andrew and Becky – Noah, Gavin, Emma, Olivia of Tea, as well as his sisters and brothers, cousins, nieces and nephews.
Oh, and Earl had a hole-in-one.
Earl requested his memorials benefit the ELCA Disaster Aid for Refugees and also the building funds at both Lutheran Church in Dell Rapids and Willow Creek Lutheran.