Bettie Johnston


Bettie Johnston age 83 of Tracy passed away Wednesday, December 10, 2014 at her home. Funeral services will be at 2:00 p.m. Saturday, December 13 at the Tracy Presbyterian Church. Visitation is one hour prior to services. Burial is in the Tracy Cemetery. Memorials may be sent to the Tracy Presbyterian Church or the Wheels Across the Prairie Museum of Tracy. Online condolences mBettie Johnston ay be sent at Stephens Funeral Service – Tracy Area Funeral Home is assisting the family with arrangements.

Bettie was born Bessy Obenchain on August 31, 1931 in a log cabin near Brainerd, MN. Her parents, John and Emma Obenchain, being unable to care for her and her brothers (John, Raleigh, and Robert) gave them up for adoption. Robert was adopted by neighbors and renamed Milton Strasburg. The others were taken to the Minnesota State School Orphanage in Owatonna. Bessy was adopted shortly thereafter by Gerald and Hattie (Moline) Rea of Tracy and renamed Bettie Dorothea Rea. With the Rea’s she gained not only a stable home with loving parents, but another brother (Duwayne “Razz” Rea) as well. Bettie grew up in Tracy, graduating from Tracy High School in 1949. She was an excellent student, as well as an excellent singer, which led her to join the choir at the Tracy Presbyterian Church. There she met the love of her life, Gordon Johnston. They were married in 1950 and had seven children – JoAnn, Jeanette, Alan, Steven, Philip, Paul, and Kent. In addition to being a busy mother, Bettie was a Brownie Troop leader, a Campfire Girl leader, a member of Monday Musicale, a member of the Hospital Auxiliary, a volunteer for the One-to-One program providing elderly care for Western Mental Health Center, an active member of the Presbyterian Church, and a member of the Sorosis Federated Study Club. She served in various Sorosis officer positions at local, county, and district levels, including District President in 1987-88 and local historian from 1967 onward. She also served in various offices for the Presbyterian Church, being elected an elder in 1972, appointed a member of several Presbytery committees and one synod committee, elected to be a delegate from Minnesota Valley’s Presbytery to the National Presbytery meeting in Atlanta in 1983, and elected to serve in the position of Church Treasurer, a position she held from 1998 until her death. As Bettie’s children grew older, she spent an increasing amount of time working with Gordon at the Johnston Real Estate and Travel business in Tracy and at the Tepeeotah Campground they ran at Lake Shetek. She also became a volunteer at the Wheels Across the Prairie Museum, serving as secretary for two terms and as a board member, in addition to working at the admission desk where she continued to work until 2014 when health issues slowed her down. Bettie clearly had many interests, many hobbies, and an innate desire to help other people. She always enjoyed art, music, jigsaw puzzles, and crossword puzzles, but she really loved Christmas time, especially trimming trees, arranging Christmas decorations, and packing shoe boxes with Christmas gifts for needy children. She got the shoe boxes sent off again this year, but didn’t have a chance to finish her Christmas decorating. She died from heart failure on December 10, 2014 in the midst of the season she loved.

Bettie is survived by two brothers Raleigh (Wanda) Obenchain and Milton Strasburg; sister-in-law Laurel (Robbins) Rea; brother-in-law Donald (Virginia) Johnston; five children: Jeanette Marshall of Superior, WI, Alan (Judy) Johnston of West Saint Paul, Steven (Connie) Johnston of Rochester, Philip Johnston of Minneapolis, and Kent (Julie) Johnston of Tracy; ten grandchildren: Michelle Johnston, Lance Determan, William Determan, William Johnston, Katherine Johnston, Anna Johnston, Jennifer (Johnston) Gilbertson, Matthew Johnston, Monika Sziron, and Giselle Sziron; and seven great-grandchildren: Grant, Elizabeth, Spencer, and Kent Tuominen, and Hannah, Joshua, Claire Determan; and 14 nieces and nephews. She is preceded in death by her parents, two brothers Duwayne Rea and John Obenchain, her husband Gordon, two children Paul and JoAnn, a nephew Neal Rea, and brother-in-law Richard Johnston.

We will miss her greatly.


  1. Norman & Mike Wessels says:

    Norman, Joyce and Mike Wessels, neighbors at Tepeoatah want to express our sympathy. Your Mom
    Worked so hard at all she did. We feel bad and will miss her.

    • Al Johnston says:

      Thank you for your kind thoughts. As you noticed, mom really enjoyed being at the lake and working in her gardens. She also enjoyed having good neighbors nearby, and watched with appreciation as you invested your time and energy into expanding your place and preparing to spend more time enjoying the lake. It is nice to know that she touched your lives. Perhaps when spring arrives again and the flowers start blooming you will sense her there helping you enjoy nature and helping confirm the choice to spend more time at a place she knew you would love.

  2. jon wendorff says:

    My deepest sympathy to all of you, i’m so honored to have worked with youre Mother at the Wheels museum, her knowledge of Tracy was incredible, i loved working with her at the museum, She will be missed by many, may God hold you all close during this difficult time , jon

    • Al Johnston says:

      Hi Jon, Thank you for your kind thoughts. Mom spoke of you with a lot of admiration and respect. She had a lifelong passion for learning about history and helping preserve it for future generations. She and our dad were thrilled to see others in the community express interest in having a museum in Tracy, and were glad to help with its formation, development, and operation. Mom truly enjoyed working at the museum and thinking about ways she could further support it. She was also grateful for the time and energy other museum officers, board members, volunteers, and friends spent to make the museum a success, as well as for the friendships she formed with each of you. One of her main concerns as her energy began to run out was seeing a transition to more active involvement from younger generations. You are an example of someone who stepped up and put a smile on her face. Thank you!

  3. Your family has my deepest sympathy. I am so sorry for your loss. Ms. Bettie will be dearly missed. Though now you are grieving, please remember that you are not alone. Psalms 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, a help that is readily found in times of distress.” Pray to Him for strength. He will really help you get through this difficult time (Isaiah 41:10) because He cares for you very much (1 Peter 5:7).

Share Your Condolences

HTML tags are not allowed.


23,553 Spambots Blocked by Simple Comments