Marian Johnson


Marian JohnsonMarian Mae Johnson Age 84 of rural Westbrook (Dovray) died peacefully Tuesday, August 8, 2017. In honoring Marian’s request there will be no formal funeral or memorial service.  Family would encourage you to share favorite memories and stories about Marian with each other. Memorials may be sent to Marian’s home church or to your favorite charity. Online condolences may be sent at  Stephens Funeral Service – Westbrook Funeral Home is assisting the family with arrangements.

Marian Johnson was born May 10, 1933 in Dovray Township, Minnesota to Thomas and Alice (Engerbretson) Johnson.  She was baptized on June 25, 1933 and confirmed March 21, 1928 at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Dovray.  Marian was a graduate of Westbrook High School and went on to receive a full scholarship to the MacPhail School of Performing Arts in Minneapolis where she earned a Bachelor of Music and a Minor in Voice.  Marian devoted her entire life to music.  She taught piano lessons to students in her home as well as in Slayton, Currie, and surrounding areas.  Many of her students went on to be music teachers and piano teachers.  Marian also played for Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Dovray and for many funerals, school programs, and weddings.  She played for over 100 weddings in her lifetime.  During her travels, Marian played piano for audiences in 23 different countries.  Marian loved her cats she also liked to travel internationally, was fluent in Spanish, enjoyed singing, and loved her chocolates!

Survivors are Brother-in-law Blaine Himmelman, Nieces Laurie (Kim) Boyce and Jan (Mike) Freiborg and their families as well as other loving family and friends.  Preceding her in death were her parents, Tom & Alice Johnson and her sister, Carol Himmelman.


  1. Kathleen Ruppert Hall says:

    May she rest in peace. She was a pivotal role model and teacher of mine many years ago!

  2. Paula Matson says:

    Hi there! Marian always came to my cafe, The Left Bank in Slayton. She loved anything chocolate that I made and whether I was empty or full she would stand up and belt out the Hallelujah Chorus. My husband and I were the 100th wedding she played for and she also sang for us. I loved her very much and will miss her. She was absolutely one of a kind!

  3. Darelyn Harrington says:

    Marian was a wonderful piano teacher for my children. Her enthusiasm for the piano inspired my children to want to play piano. I can see her playing for the angels in heaven Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus. We are so grateful for all the music she passed onto us, especially Beethoven, Mozart and Handel. She was dearly loved and appreciated by our family. I wish we could have played for her one more time. Darelyn, Ben, Noah, Maddie, and Nehemiah

  4. Kristin (Campbell) Harner says:

    My condolences on her passing. I enjoyed playing piano with her when I was the church pianist at Willow Lake Lutheran Church the sister church to Dovray. But most of all I enjoyed her friendship, and the time spent with her selecting the music for our wedding. I still remember her telling me that she would skip the meal at my wedding if she could try both types of chocolate wedding cake. Of course, I let her eat as much chocolate cake that evening as she wanted:) I know she is in Heaven eating all the chocolate her heart desires and filling Heaven with the sounds of music. Her impact on the lives she touched lives on.

  5. Kelsey Mischke says:

    Oh Marion, I love you so very much and will miss you greatly. Marion was my piano teacher all throughout elementary school, middle school, and high school. I was never very spectacular at the piano, but she never lost confidence in me, even when I lost my patience. I will always hold the clearest, fondest memories of waiting for my lesson on her leather couch, petting Allegria, and working on my homework in my heart. She was always quick to offer chocolates and compliments, even when I clearly hadn’t practiced enough. Marion brought more life to the piano than anyone I have ever heard met. Her love for the piano sang through her nimble fingers, stomping foot, and energetic tempo and dynamic changes. I’ve missed her captivating performances for years and will always look over to the piano at Trinity Lutheran to see her there. I send the deepest condolences to her family and friends. And Marion, I promise to return to the piano.

  6. Erling J Anderson says:

    Marian was my piano teacher from grade school until my early teens. What I remember about her was her complete enthusiasm with music; both yours as well as hers. She was quick with complements and seldom, if ever, admonished me if I had not practiced enough. She had this habit of keeping the beat with a pen or pencil in her right had as I would play a piece. One time as she was keeping beat in this way a pen flew out of her hand and landed across the room. She wasn’t embarrassed about this but simply retrieved the pen and encouraged me to continue. She would write notes on the music pieces such as Great!, Wonderful!. Such a wonderful woman! May she rest in peace!

  7. Amy Dumos says:

    I never had piano lessons but I did enjoy visiting with her after Sunday school.

  8. Beth LIndstrom says:

    I have fond memories of Marion. She was a dynamic piano teacher, very entertaining, and definitely talented. She helped inspire me to do my best. She certainly had a zest for life and for music and for Spanish. Her eccentricities made her such a unique person and one in a million.

  9. Sherrri Isder says:

    Deepest condolences to Marians family. Oh, the memories! I started piano with Alice in 1965, moved on to Marian and studied with her until after high school. She was a great inspiration to me. Marian played piano at our wedding, went piano shopping with me to purchase my grand piano, and taught my daughter for a time. She instilled in me a love of piano duets, which I have been able to share with my own students. Playing the ‘Marriage of Figaro’ and Beethoven’s 5th Symphony with her was a blast. Blessed be her memory!

  10. Rob Kiihn says:

    When I heard about Marion’s passing I thought to myself she was definetly a top talent that belonged in Broadway or a musical. . As a young 10 year old boy sitting in a church pew she commanded the audience with her piano.
    As she struke the first key with her hands it was so magical . Seeing her expressing herself you knew that she was extremely passionate about music. Sitting in church was very difficult at times to concentrate but once she started playing you could see the focus of all in church.
    Have not seen Marion in years but she brought so many good memories to all that loved her.
    My condolences to the family

  11. Eunice Christensen says:

    Heaven is now blessed with a very unique, talented musician. I took piano lessons from her mom, Alice, but have always admired Marian’s enthusiasm and dedication to making the world a better place through music. Once when my sister, Betty, was with her best friend, Carol, (Marian’s sister) at the Johnson home, I was there, too. Then I had time to be with Marian, who was four years older than I.. We had our own little private “tea party” in one of their upstairs bedrooms. I thought I was really special to be Marian’s guest, as we sipped our water (tea), and ate our crackers. It was the first and only “tea party” for me, so it has stayed in my memory all these years. Yes, she was blessed with so much talent, and loved sharing it with others. She enriched the lives of everyone she knew, especially her students, and the members of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Dovray. Sincerely, with love, Eunie

  12. Judy Engebretson Follmuth says:

    Marian and music were synonymous. Her passion for music and her willingness to share it through performance and teaching was her contribution to this world, and what a marvelous contribution she made. I brought a duet book to my first lesson with Marian. She had me choose a piece and whichever part I wanted to play, and she sight read the other part. We played Marche Militaire with gusto, energy, and ambition like I had never experienced before. It was memorable. Her exuberance for music was contagious and captivating. I feel so privileged to have been a student of hers. Her excitement for music and for life were inspirational. What a blessing.

  13. Nancy Veenhuis Rodolico says:

    I will never forget my first piano lesson from Miss Johnson. She was teaching in the Slayton High School auditorium – I was nine years old and scared to death. In fact, my Mom brought me to my lesson in tears. Thirty minutes later I walked out of the school with a huge grin on my face, loving every minute of that first lesson and that wonderful woman who taught me piano throughout my high school years. Marian inspired me to get a music major in piano and to go on and teach elementary music for over thirty years. Now that I’ve retired I’m back to teaching private piano. So often I’ll look in my old music and see that flowery script and notes that Marion would make as we played – of course it was always in pen:) Often I’ll see the word bravo written on a page. Bravo to you Marian and the love of music that you instilled in all of your students. Heaven must be loving those Beethoven sonatas!

  14. Michal Anderson-Lowther says:

    I believe I started taking piano lessons from Marian shortly after she moved back to the farm near Dovray in the early 1960’s. I echo what several have said…how encouraging she was…jotting notes like “Bravo!” and “Super” in the margins of the music I had practiced during the week (always being very generous with her encouragement because more often than not my efforts at practicing the pieces fell short). I never ceased to be amazed at Marian’s passion for music and her willingness to share endlessly her talent wherever she went. Whenever I would see Marian as the years went by she would warmly greet me and shake my hand…with her strong grip attributed I am sure to the hours and hours of piano practice. I think it would be interesting to know how many piano students Marian’s life touched. I am sure it is in the hundreds. What a legacy! Well done, good and faithful servant!

  15. Bob Worrall, Anne Johnson says:

    Our whole family has wonderful memories of visiting Marian and soaking up her joy and enthusiasm for music, for the pleasure of our company, for her cats and for life itself. She helped our kids realize the value of the gift of sharing music with others. She played her piano with her special flair, but with honesty and respect for the composer and with a giving heart for her audience. I made a special birthday card for her every year since 1978 and she kept them all in a scrapbook and was insistent on showing them to her students. One year I was late in sending the card and she called asking if I was ok. That only happened once. The thought of disappointing her was a powerful incentive to be prompt.
    She will always have a special, lively corner in our hearts!

  16. Marcia Gertner Johnson says:

    I did not have Marian for piano lessons, but know how proud that my mother was to have Marian as her student at Westbrook Public School. When my mother died in 2007, Marian was honored to play piano at the service at Trinity Church in Westbrook. She sent such a nice note afterwards. I remember when Marian was so happy to share her European trip with us years ago. She enjoyed seeing the homes of famous composers, and even showed us the candy wrappers from the chocolates that she purchased. We recently returned from a trip to Germany. I thought of Marian when I took photos of statues of Bach & Mendelssohn in Leipzig. Marian touched so many lives with her music.

  17. Sara (Bruning) Gavin says:

    I was truly blessed to have Marian in my life. I took piano lessons from her for 10 years and those were some of my fondest memories growing up. Receiving a “Bravo” and a rare “Bravisimo!” from Marian was such a thrill! Since 3rd grade, Marian was a part of my life. Whether it was helping me memorize music, coming to my plays during high school, or playing piano at my wedding, she was always there. I remember a couple of years ago when my husband and I and our three children were visiting Marian at her home over Christmas. My kids were starting to get a little rowdy and she started to play a song on the piano. They immediately stopped and stared in awe while she played. That was Marian. Her talent and passion would stop a person in their tracks. She was always so encouraging and supportive; I always wanted to do my best and make her proud. I will miss Marian deeply and I am so proud my husband and children were able to meet her and get to know her as the wonderful lady she was. I am a better person for knowing her. Heaven gained an angel! I will miss you, Marian, and thank you for everything!

  18. Therese Cummiskey says:

    God Bless Marian Johnson. What a lovely lady! What a dynamo! What a blessing to have her as my piano teacher for seven years. My condolences to her family.

  19. Eric Engerbretson (cousin) says:

    Marion will always be deep in my heart, as one of the most unique, dynamic, transparent, wonderful people I’ve known. Ever since my childhood, she was a force and powerful memory in mind as I reflected on my Minnesota heritage. Never will forget her visit to us in Idaho a few years ago, and her getting to play the $100,000 piano at Washington State University. What a marvelous person she was. Can’t wait to greet her in heaven.

  20. Sandra Garcia (Camargo), Maria Dahn (Camargo) & Katherine Portes (Camargo) says:

    My mother has known Marian since she was a high school exchange student 35 years ago at Slayton High School from Colombia. Since my parents moved to the United States, Marian has always been a part of our lives. My sister and I will always cherish the memories of staying with her, biking around the country roads and putting on small piano recitals. Although we never were able to learn to play, she sure did try to teach us! Marian took great pride in singing & playing the Colombian anthem for us as well as hold conversations with our parents in Spanish. She will be greatly missed by all of us. Our sincere condolences to her family.

  21. Marti Anderson says:

    I am late to this memorial, but want to simply say that Marian was one of a kind and someone I admired and appreciated always. Her love of music always made me feel lifted up and blessed as she would perform.

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