Kay Palmer Johnson returned to his Heavenly Father on July 11, 2018 in Blanding, UT at the age of 95.
He was the oldest of four children, born on January 4, 1923 to Jesse and Florence Johnson. He grew up in Blanding with family and friends most of his life.
His family moved to Cortez, CO to farm in 1927, where he started school. He was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints in Mancos, CO when he turned eight.
The family returned to Blanding after four years and that year Kay started third grade. Growing up, the kids from “jungle town” all played Run Sheepie Run and Kick the Can and had bonfires in the street. They watched old movies at the South Chapel and went to weekly dances in the auditorium.
Kay loved music and learned to play the trumpet. He was captain of the marching band and student body president of San Juan High School his senior year. He also worked hard to help his family during the years of the Depression.
He met Ila Shumway in third grade and it was love at first sight. They married soon after graduation from high school on November 7, 1941 in the Manti LDS Temple.
They were married for 76 years. He started working with his father in what was then called general trucking. They hauled livestock, wool, grain, hay, and sheep to the railroad in old trucks. He did this for several years into his marriage. This was disrupted for a time by World War II.
Exactly one month after getting married, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Kay and his brother were drafted, along with Ila’s brothers. He joined the Army Air Corps and trained in Denver. He was then transferred into the infantry and moved to Texas. From there he was sent to Fort Ord in Monterey, CA, where he was given orders to invade Japan with amphibious tanks.
The morning he was scheduled to ship out, word came that Japan had surrendered. Kay said he knew his life was spared and he was able to return home in April, 1946.
Kay and Ila both enjoyed music and dancing on into their marriage. Kay continued to play his trumpet at dances with the Harvey John Kartchner dance band all around the area.
Kay and Ila started their family after seven years of marriage. They took their young son Sheldon and served an LDS mission headquartered in Gallup, NM. It covered a large area, including New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and southern Colorado.
The last year he acted as a district president for about a year. He presided over it and the missionaries. The last four months, he was made a counselor to the mission president and traveled all over the mission. He learned a little of the Navajo language and was always helping his Navajo neighbors and friends.
Dantzelle, Ramona, Liz and Stacey came into the family nine years later and were a big surprise. Kay was a hard worker and later mined, drove loaders, trucks, and more with his brothers-in-law during the uranium boom.
He had tons of stories about the trading and practical jokes played at the mines. He grew very close to Ila’s brothers during this time. Kay also owned a car repair shop and a café during his lifetime.
When he was about 41, he decided to go back to school and become a teacher. He had back problems and needed to change occupations. This was very difficult at his age and with a large family.
He spent three years at Brigham Young University and took all the classes he could. He graduated in January 1967.
He became an elementary teacher and spent his first year teaching in Mexican Hat. He was then given a job at Blanding Elementary, where he taught for 20 years. The last few years he got certified to be a librarian and worked in this capacity for a couple years.
In later years, Kay and Ila served in the Mesa, AZ and Monticello temples. Kay became a sealer in Monticello and had the privilege of marrying 16 of his grandchildren. He was very humbled by this and very proud of his children and grandchildren in all aspects of their lives. He had a strong testimony of God and his Son, Jesus Christ.
Kay had his own little sense of humor and really liked talking and getting to know people. He had tons of stories and loved sharing them.
He is preceded in death by a grandson (Dustin Kay Johnson), a great-grandson (Kayj Shumway), his parents and brother and sisters.
He is survived by his wife, Ila Shumway Johnson; son, Sheldon Kay Johnson; daughters, Dantzelle (Dick) Einerson, Ramona (David) Lyman, Liz (Kent) Adams all of Blanding, and Stacey (Chris) Webb of Lehi, UT; 20 grandchildren; and 51 great-grandchildren.
Funeral services were held on July 16, 2018, with interment at the Blanding City Cemetery with full military honors.
Card of thanks
The family of Kay P. Johnson would like to thank all those who shared their thoughts and condolences with the family, for the good food, cards, flowers, for acts of service and the many hugs. We also are thankful for Dr. Josh Nielson, Zion’s Way Hospice, San Juan Mortuary, Blanding Seventh Ward and all those who made Kay’s life more comfortable in his last days.