Obituary for Sally Johnson
Sally Anne Johnson (Van Ryzin), beloved matriarch and constant scholar, passed away Monday, May 1st, 2017. Sally died peacefully surrounded by her family at Touchmark. She was 83.
Sally was born in Appleton on March 29th 1934 to Mark and Dorothy (Fennel) Van Ryzin. She had a happy childhood playing and seeking adventure with many neighborhood friends and enjoyed the sole attention of her family until the first of her four siblings made his appearance when she was eight years old. She also developed her lifelong love of learning, reading and writing.
Sally attended Appleton High School (West) where she excelled academically and participated in many extracurricular activities, including starring in many school plays, writing for the school newspaper and editing the school yearbook. She graduated in 1952 near the top of her class and had many friends who became lifelong friends. After graduation, she worked for a local travel agency while she planned her wedding to her high school sweetheart, James (Jim) Johnson.
Sally and Jim were married on October 11th, 1952. They welcomed the first of their six children, Jeffrey, the following summer. Four more boys, Patrick, Scott, Peter and Joel, quickly followed. Then, to their surprise, a baby girl was born, Anne. Sally embraced motherhood and was very involved with her active bunch. She was an excellent cook and homemaker, enjoyed crafts, read three books every week and wrote in her journal daily. She taught herself to sew, knit and macramé. She had an eye for design and began collecting antiques. The historic home she furnished more than thirty years ago still looks stunning today. She made things beautiful without fuss. Her signature Christmas Eve prime rib dinner remains a cherished memory for her family. The family enjoyed RV’ing, camping, skiing and sailing together, and later, enjoyed their cottage on Maiden Lake in the north woods of Wisconsin with the family dog in tow.
Sally’s love of arts and crafts inspired her, along with a few friends, to open The Craft Peddler, which specialized in one of a kind arts and crafts. In 1980, she sold her share of the business and went to college, fulfilling a lifelong dream. She started at UW-Fox Valley and wrote for the school newspaper, quickly becoming Editor. After two years at UW-Fox Valley, she earned a scholarship to Lawrence University in Appleton, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature.
After graduating, Sally went to work as an editor for AAL (now Thrivent Financial). After a few years, Sally went back to school, this time at UW-Milwaukee, to pursue her Masters degree in English Literature. She then fulfilled another life dream of teaching English and creative writing as a lecturer at UW-Green Bay and UW-Oshkosh. She continued to write, including a life memoir that she worked on until recently, and had several articles, poems and short stories published along the way.
During retirement, Sally enjoyed traveling with Jim and her family, spending time at their cottage, taking RV trips, biking, hiking, gardening, reading and writing. She was active in her neighborhood association and fought to preserve its local landmarks. She volunteered at local elementary schools and worked with students on their reading skills. She loved live music and going to plays. She supported the arts and read the newspaper daily, staying on top of current events. She never stopped learning and continually exercised her mind. She always exuded a positive, upbeat attitude and had a real zest for life.
Sally is survived by her husband, Jim, of nearly 65 years; her children, Jeffrey (Carol) of Appleton, Patrick (Kelly) of Lolo, MT, Scott of Appleton, Peter (Lori) of Oshkosh, Joel of Appleton and Anne (Nathan) of Neenah; her grand-children, Sara (Casey) of Waupaca, Julie of Appleton and Brittany (Corey) of Oshkosh; her great-grand-children, Lucille, Reed and Dane (Sara & Casey) and Magnolia (Brittany & Corey); her siblings, Michael (Judith) Van Ryzin of Green Bay, Kathleen Morrison of Appleton, Judith (Robert) Schmidt of Appleton and Mark Thomas (Rita) Van Ryzin of Cypress, CA; brother-in-law, Guy (Beverly) Johnson, Appleton; numerous nieces and nephews and her beloved golden retriever, Carly.
Sally is preceded in death by her grand-daughter, Elizabeth Marie (Jeffrey & Carol), sister, Susan and brother-in-law, Angus (Kathleen).
A catholic mass to celebrate Sally’s life will be held on Wednesday, May 10, 2017 at St. Mary’s Parish, 312 S. State Street, Appleton. Visitation will be from 3:00-5:30pm, mass at 5:30pm and a reception will follow at the church.
Two memorial funds have been established in Sally’s name benefiting Fox Valley Memory Project and Fox Valley Literacy Council.