By Shirley Capistrant, Willmar Care Center, in her own words
A quiet and humble man with a melting smile and kind heart, Harold Johnson celebrated his 105th birthday on Feb. 25 at the Willmar Care Center in Willmar. He has lived here since 2008. Born to Swedish parents on a farm in Whitefield Township just south of Willmar in 1906, Johnson has lived his entire life in this area. He graduated from Willmar High School in 1925 and farmed as long as he could. “I retired in my 80’s…about 15 years ago,” he tells me. About his favorite memory of family, he smiles and answers simply, “love.” Johnson was born the fourth of 12 children, six brothers and five sisters. Harold had no children but was married twice and both wives passed away from cancer. His last sibling passed away four or five years ago. “I have a few nieces and nephews,” he said. “People were good to me,” Johnson says of his life. When asked what he considered his most important accomplishment in life, Johnson’s reply is quick, “Farming, I love the great outdoors.” I get the same answer about his favorite thing to do. “Just farm pretty much,” he smiles. Johnson says he had traveled to the West coast before he was married and “it was quite different from here.” “Do you like Minnesota better?” I asked. “Oh yeah, pretty much,” he grinned. Johnson’s favorite food is strawberries and ice cream and at 105 years old he can have all the ice cream he wants. When asked what his pet peeve was, Johnson said, “rough people, swearing and carrying on.” It isn’t that way here. They’re kind, a pretty good place, you know, good to you.” When he isn’t paying bingo or attending church services, Harold can be found in his room reading his Bible. When asked what his favorite verse is, he recites “for God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…” as tears well up in his eyes Johnson completes John 3:16 word for word. I asked Johnson if he was always a reader. “I wasn’t so much of a reader, but it is what I can still do now,” he said. “I read the Bible…it’s pretty hard to understand… and I pray a lot.” He prays for people who have a rough life, he adds. When asked what he would do if he could do anything he wanted, Johnson said, “I’d like to get outdoors and have the country life.” He smiles that melting smile. “And I’d like to see the countries get along good.” When asked how he managed to reach his monumental age, Johnson says, “Well, I don’t know. I suppose it’s the Lord’s will, luck and health from God. Life can be a hard experience, people dying and such. You have to live it. God helps me.” As I get up to thank Harold for visiting with me, he is the first to extend his hand to me and thank me with that melting smile again. I know now why Harold has lived so long. He has an important job at 105; He’s praying for us and this “rough” world.