Harry O. Johnson


HARRY O. JOHNSON, 89, died on Sunday, 8/1/2010, at his residence in Bothell, WA under the care of his family and caregivers.  A memorial service will be held on Thursday, 8/12/10 at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, 3030 Bellevue Way NE, Bellevue, WA 98004.

Arrangements are entrusted to Barton Funeral Home, Kirkland, WA and an on-line memorial is available at: www.bartonfuneral.com .  Harry’s family would greatly appreciate stories/remembrances from friends and family.

Harry is preceded in death by his adoptive parents, Ole and Hilda Johnson of Abercrombie, ND, infant sister, Josephine; his biological parents, Harold Purdie and Ida Kobbervig (MN); first wife, Mae Johnson; grandson, Michael Hope Johnson; and second wife, Dawna Johnson.

Harry is survived by:  his four children Jim (Kay)  Johnson (Butte, MT),  Steve (Stephanie) Johnson (Kirkland, WA), Vicki Potter (Woodinville, WA), and Diane (Chris Leen) Johnson (Woodinville, WA); seven grandchildren, Christi Daniels, Kim Johnson and Debbie Rafferty (Jim); Eric Johnson and Amy Johnson (Steve); Dan Potter and Nick Potter (Vicki); six great-grandchildren; half-sister, Maxine Hoot (Indiana); several nieces and nephews, several  extended family members in Minnesota, and close friends.

1927

Harry was born on January 30, 1921 in Fargo, ND to Harold Purdie and Ida Kobbervig and was adopted as an infant by Ole and Hilda Johnson of Abercrombie, ND, who raised him as their own and loved him dearly.  He attended the Abercrombie public school system and graduated from Abercrombie High School in 1938.  In 1939, Harry joined the Civilian Conservation Corp with his best friend, Corrie Snyder.  He married Mae Klubberud on 1/11/1941. Together they lived on and worked the family farm, began raising the three oldest children there, and moved to Washington State in 1953, where the fourth child was born; all were raised in Kirkland, WA.  In 1976, he married Dawna Alley and they resided in Bothell for many years.  Harry worked as a machinist in the Seattle area and later became an Associate Broker in real estate in the Kirkland area.  Harry and Dawna enjoyed traveling the country and spending winters in Yuma, Death Valley, and Mexico.

As a young boy and young man, Harry sang at the majority of weddings and funerals in his home town of Abercrombie; later he also sang at his children’s weddings.  Harry began playing the fiddle at the age of seven.  When he was 11, he bought a guitar for $3.98 and would play along with his cousin, Helmer Amundsen, to learn the old Norwegian tunes.  Harry packed up his family and headed west in the wake of the devastating floods of 1953, settling in Kirkland, WA, just east of Seattle.  He had no connection to the local fiddling community until the day he followed the sound of sweet music to a barber shop.  Harry became a regular session member and would hum Helmer’s old tunes for the others to learn and play.  One fateful day, the fiddle was handed to Harry and he was hooked again.  He was soon surrounded by friends who lent him records and tapes and joined him for jam sessions.  In ND, Harry had listened to American and Canadian fiddle music on the radio “with those fast hoedowns, but we didn’t know what that was, in my country, so I ignored it.”  Now, he began learning them, along with other tunes common to the local fiddlers’ repertoire. In 1970, Harry stopped in Weiser, Idaho on the way to a family vacation in ND.  The national fiddle contest was in full swing and he left with tunes running through his head.  When he retired in the mid-1970s, Harry took to traveling and met many more musicians.  Harry was chosen to represent Pacific NW Fiddling at the 1976 Smithsonian Folklife Festival during the Bicentennial celebrations. He has recorded several albums, has won countless fiddle contests across the country, and was a strong competitor at the National Oldtime Fiddle Contests in Weiser, Idaho each year since 1972.  The City of Bothell proclaimed 7/6/1998 as “Harry Johnson Champion Fiddler Day”.  On 12/1/1998 Evening Magazine, a local TV program, devoted a show to his fiddling, including substantial interviews with Harry’s wife, Dawna, with her beautiful flower garden as a backdrop for the show.

Despite Harry’s multiple medical issues over the past few years, he consistently welcomed visits and phone calls from friends, and would fiddle whenever an opportunity arose. He valued the time spent with his children to the very end and he will be missed dearly.

Harry is survived by:  his four children Jim (Kay)  Johnson (Butte, MT),  Steve (Stephanie) Johnson (Kirkland, WA), Vicki Potter (Woodinville, WA), and Diane (Chris Leen) Johnson (Woodinville, WA); seven grandchildren, Christi Daniels, Kim Johnson and Mrs. Nick (Debbie) Rafferty (Jim); Eric Johnson and Amy Johnson (Steve); Dan Potter and Nick Potter (Vicki); six great-grandchildren; half-sister, Maxine Hoot (Indiana); several nieces and nephews, several  extended family members in Minnesota, special friend Rilla Clem, and other close friends. 

The family wishes to thank Harry’s awesome and compassionate health care professionals at Evergreen Hospital, who helped him to stay in good health for many, many years, and to staff at Cascade Vista in Redmond, who contributed to Dad’s comfort and well-being during the last month of his life.

Memorials may be sent to Emmanual Lutheran Church (cemetery fund), Abercrombie, ND 58001 or to the Harry Johnson Memorial Fund, c/o John Grundstrom, Washington Oldtime Fiddlers Association, 108 Ironwood Place, East Wenatchee, WA 98802.

24 Responses to “Harry O. Johnson”

  • Diane says:

    Dad,
    It’s been fun (but sad) going through Dawna’s photo albums. So many good times you had, the pictures of you playing on the mall in front of the White House are amazing, and the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity when you were allowed to play the Granaiers violin in the Library of Congress, wow! I’m proud to have been your daughter and I know you’re in Heaven playing your fiddle and dancing with Dawna, but I miss you here. Please help us kids to continue to make you proud; I know that you love all of us very much. Thanks for teaching us to be ethical, hard-working individuals, and for giving us the drive to succeed in all aspects of our lives. Thanks for expecting Vicki and me to help in the yard when we were kids and all of the other things that boys more typically did back then, because it instilled independence and self-reliance in us. And yes, your “stubborn Norwegian” personality was trying at times, but that’s one of the things that made you special and kept you going for so long. I’m so sorry that you didn’t get to be at home longer and even sorrier that I wasn’t there when you passed. I love you, Dad.
    Love,
    “TooToo”

  • Bonnie Klubberud says:

    As children we spent many fun times with Harry and Mae. Harry and my Dad, Kenny, were good friends from Abercrombie. When we as a family moved out Seattle way from MN, Harry and Mae were living in Kirkland. Harry was in real estate then and found our house on 155th Street. Harry and Dad had stories to tell at our many family get-togethers. Mae and my Mom, Pearl, responding with “oh Harry” or “oh Kenny”. Uncle Harry will be missed.

  • Mayves & Lloyd Anderson says:

    I played guitar for 20 years ith Harry playing the fiddle. got to learn so many of his tunes. Lloyd and I traveled with Harry and Dawna to many fiddle contesrs, campouts, shows and home jams. It was fun. Harry was one of the bestold time fiddlers around Wa. He will be missedandleula

  • Garry & Dianne Gooch says:

    What wonderful memories we have playing music with Harry. Dawna was such a faithful fan and always attentive to his music. He played such great dance tunes and we are so glad to have recordings of his music which we have been playing these last few days. Harry was full of spunk, a twinkle in his eyes and always ready to jam. He will truly be missed.

  • Marilyn Clise says:

    As a beginning real estate agent at Juanita Realty back in th ’60’s, I enjoyed Harry’s company. He did love to tease, and I know that his years as a agent were enjoyed. I have always appreciated the gift from Harry when we had our son – a high chair! Mike is now 42 so that was long ago. My husband and I have enjoyed contact with Harry over all these years, and as I’m writing this, I have his music playing. Thanks to Harry – I consider him a dear friend. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.

  • Jane Rocha says:

    I knew Harry from the Northshore Senior Center and visited with him at home often last year. Hank Rapp and I visited him several times and will miss him.
    He had a circle of friends at the Center that miss him.

  • Loy Larson says:

    I remember Harry at Weiser many years ago(late 70’s).He had a such a warm smile and was always upbeat and was one of those people you looked forward to seeing every year.
    Besides the contest itself, half the fun was just jamming and visiting with Folks like Harry.He was the type of person when you see him, it’s like talking to your neighbor,even if you only see him once a year!I’m from Fargo so I suppose I couldn’t help but relate to another Norwegian from ND. My thoughts and prayers go to his family. God Bless

  • Mabel Vogt says:

    Sieg and I loved the good times we had when Harry came by our camp to jam at Weiser. His energy, spunk and good humor were unforgettable. Among the tunes I learned from him, Bavarian Waltz was our favorite because it resembled so closely one Sieg had sung and played on the accordion while growing up in Bavaria. I’ll always think of Harry when I play one of his tunes.

  • Becky Alke says:

    My dear Harry; Your smile, your laughter, your heart warming encouragement to pick up my fiddle and play will be with me always. I bought all your music, we shared a couple *nips* at the campouts,and I listened to all your stories! The story of you learning to fiddle from ND to WA, is my fav…it’s your life.
    I am in awe of you dear Harry. Thanks for playing tunes with me in your back yard. I don’t think I’ll ever play much in Bflat or E however…you made it look so simple…never say never. Luv ya Harry. Beck

  • Jeff Brown says:

    I had the opportunity to get to play with Harry, very talented, his music will be remembered for years, and also had talked with him about machining. Getting to talk and play with him always left you smiling, he will be missed

  • Valerie Margulis says:

    Harry has been a fixture at our family gatherings for the last several years–always smiling and always had a funny story about the old days. We will miss the twinkle in his eye!

  • Roberta Johnson says:

    For me, Harry was a great uncle. I know I was pretty small, but I remember visiting his farm in North Dakota. I’m pretty sure they had a tire swing hanging from the limb of a large tree. I thought Jim and Steve were so lucky to have that swing.

    I loved music and so did Harry. And boy could he play that fiddle. Once they moved to Washington, I remember visiting his family in West Seattle. Sometimes we would have picnics on Alki Beach, and then go up to the house for the evening. One or more of his friends would come over for a jam session and play their hearts out. It was great.

    One of the years they lived in Lakeview Terrace as did my family, their home needed a new roof. As a fifth grader, I asked if I could help. Before my dad could say a word, Harry said sure, come on up. And just like that he put me to work. It was so fun.

    We often had Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve at the third Johnson home in Kirkland. One Thanksgiving, Harry rolled up the carpet and insisted he teach me the polka and the two-step. We danced around the room until he wore me out. He was good to go, I was the one who gave out. I do not remember dancing the two-step with anyone but Harry, and it is a fond memory.

    Eventually, my cousins and I grew up and apart as we moved from Kirkland to attend college, find careers, get married and raise our families. But our parents kept in touch, enjoying their common North Dakota heritage. Once my father, Herm Johnson, died, Harry continued to visit my mother, Bea Johnson, so they could continue to share their memories of North Dakota.

    Once my mother passed, I started to visit Harry. And sure enough, he continued right on sharing stories about North Dakota and the relatives and friends we both knew. He enjoyed telling the stories and I enjoyed hearing them.

    I would usually ask how his kids were doing. “How’s Jim doing?” Harry would puff up and talk about the beautiful home Jim and Kay have in Montana, their wonderful kids and grandchildren, and talk about Jim’s talent for giving classic cars new life and value. “How about Steve?” Harry had plenty to say about Steve and how he has continued to be a success in his work, eventually buying a second home in the Southwest so he and Stephanie can enjoy some sun during the soggier times of our winters. He liked to talk about how handy Steve is and how he always has a project going. Then I would ask about Vicki. He would turn his head from side to side and let me know in his understated way how much he admired her success both as a contractor and a realtor. I asked about Vicki’s sons, Nick and Dan, as well and always heard good things. As for Diane, well Harry felt she pretty much runs the Veterans’ Hospital. He was very proud of how far she has come in her field. But what really amazed me was his telling me the story of how Diane did the genealogy research and not only found Harry’s birth family, but arranged for them to go to North Dakota and Minnesota to meet them. I believe that meant the world to Harry.

    It was obvious Harry was proud of all his children, which is why I tried to ask about them a lot. They have been wonderful cousins to me, and I enjoyed hearing how much they were loved and admired by their dad.

    As I visited Harry in the weeks of his decline, I knew my visits with him were coming to an end. I am going to miss them a lot. I am very grateful to his family for seeing to it that his passing into heaven was a gentle one. I am convinced that upon his arrival, he livened things up quite a bit playing his beloved fiddle once more, jamming with his friends, old and new. Until we meet again, dear Uncle.

  • Roberta Johnson says:

    For me, Harry was a great uncle. I know I was pretty small, but I remember visiting his farm in ND. I’m pretty sure they had a tire swing hanging from the limb of a large tree. I thought Jim & Steve were so lucky to have that swing. I loved music & so did Harry. And boy could he play that fiddle. Once they moved to WA, I remember visiting his family in West Seattle. Sometimes we would have picinics on Alki Beach & then go up to the house for the evening. One or more of his friends would come over for a jam session & paly their hearts out. It was great. One of the years they lived in Lakeview Terrace as did my family, their home needed a new roof. As a 5th grader, I asked if I could help. Before I could say a word, Harry said sure, come on up and just like that he put me to work. It was so fun. We often had Thanksgiving & Christmas Eve at the third Johnson home in Kirkland. One Thanksgiving, Harry rolled up the carpet and insisted he teach me the polka & the 2-step. We danced around the room until he wore me out. He was good to go, I was the one who gave out. I do not remember dancing the 2-step with anyone but Harry, and it is a fond memory. Eventually, my cousins & I grew up and apart as we moved from Kirkland to attend college, find careers, get married & raise our families. But our parents kept in touch, enjoying their common ND heritage. Once my father, Herm Johnson, died Harry continued to visit my mother, Bea Johnson, so they could continue to share their memories of ND. Once my mother passed, I started to visit Harry. And sure enough he continued right on sharing stories about ND and the relatives and friends we both knew. He enjoyed telling the stories & I enjoyed hearing them.

  • Roberta Johnson says:

    I would usually ask how his kids were doing. “How’s Jim doing?” Harry would puff up & talk about the beautiful home Jim & Kay have in MT, their wonderful kids & grandchildren, & talk about JIm’s talent for giving classic cars new life & value. “How about Steve?” Harry had plenty to say about Steve & how he has continued to be a success in his work, eventually buying a 2nd home in the SW so he & Stephanie can enjoy some sun during the soggier times of our winters. He liked to talk about how handy Steve is & how he always has a project going. Then I would ask about Vicki. He’d turn his head from side to side & let me know in his understated way how much he admired her success both as a contractor & a realtor. I asked about Vicki’s sons, Nick and Dan, as well & always heard good things. As for Diane, well Harry felt she pretty much runs the Veterans Hospital. He was very proud of how far she has come in her field. But what really amazed me was his telling me the story of how Diane did the genealogy research & not only found Harry’s birth family, but arranged for them to go to ND and MN to meet them. I believe that meant the world to Harry. It was obvious Harry was proud of all his children, which is why I tried to ask about them a lot. They have been wonderful cousins to me & I enjoyed hearing how much they were loved & admired by their dad. As I visited Harry in the weeks of his decline, I knew my visits with him were coming to an end. I am going to miss them a lot. I am very grateful to his family for seeing to it that his passing into Heaven was a gentle one. I am convinced that upon his arrival, he livened things up quite a bit playing his beloved fiddle once more, jamming with his friends, old and new. Until we meet again, dear uncle. Roberta

  • Jeffrey Anderson says:

    1970 was the year the Old Time Fiddlers Assoc. District 3 sponsored a fiddle show at the county fairgrounds in Waterville, WA where I was raised. This was the first time I met Harry and he has been my friend for 40 years. I will miss him very much. Jamming and visiting with Harry all these years at campouts, shows, contests and get-togethers has always been a big treat for me. The best times were that of sharing tunes and in-between listening to his wonderful stories, especially those about his life in North Dakota where my parents were from. We would tease each other and tell jokes about our Norwegian heritage. Many times over Harry told me this in Norwegian and the translation is: “I’ve played you the tune now, so cough up the money!” I believe the “Fiddle World” has lost one of its “Greats.” Harry was also a terrific guitar player and a wonderful singer. I salute you, Harry Johnson, and thank you for sharing your tunes. The memories of you I will treasure for the rest of my life.

    HA DET BRA!
    Jeff Anderson

  • Lucy Reuter says:

    I met Harry at my first WOTFA fiddle contest in 1997. He had just won his division and was very supportive of my efforts. Over the years, we jammed together at contests, campouts or someone’s living room. He became a mentor to me on fiddle. I think I own all his recordings and have enjoyed learning several of his tunes. I am planning to teach my fiddle students some of his tunes as well, as they are unique. I will miss getting together and playing with him as he was so fun to jam with, and I loved to hear his stories about growing up in North Dakota and playing contests. I will continue to learn more of his repertoire and I will always hear his words of advice on playing fiddle. Harry, you were the best.

  • Frank Wagner says:

    Harry, what a wonderful character! I loved him and his music..I first heard him play at the NW Fiddle Contest in about 1968 which must of been one of the first contests that he entered and his style of music really stood out. He really improved over the years and he always had a story or joke to tell about every song that he played…sure was fun.
    Will miss you until we play again.
    Frank

  • Susan Anderson (Susie Smith) says:

    Many fond memories abound: that winter’s trip to San Carlos with about a dozen friends, including fiddlers and guitar players; all those good times jamming at contests and special times at Don and Norma’s; hiking (especially at Death Valley); just visiting anywhere.

    Harry was so entertaining, not only being a fantastic musician, but also having a terrific sense of humor. I’m glad that I was included as one of his and Dawna’s many, many friends.

  • Jerry Alfred says:

    I met Harry at the Sr Center and enjoyed coffee and converstation with him often. I remember his answer when asked the difference between a fiddle and a violin. \The violin is carried in a violin case, the fiddle you carry in a gunny sack\. I will surely miss him. Rest in peace, old friend.

  • Ralph Brown says:

    I met Harry several years ago when he and his friend,(my sister-in-law) came to Yakima to visit my wife, Nancy and me. I have played the accordion for over 70 years, so Harry and I had a lot of fun playing old Western, 20’s and 30’s music. I must read music in order to play, however Harry could play anything just by ear. We played many hours together. Oh how I wish we would have recorded some of our songs, however I will always have great memories of his TALENT

  • Dennis Russell says:

    Very sad about Harry passing, He used to call me on the phone wanted me to come up to the Seattle area for a few weeks and bring my Guitar, I said Harry I have a home here in Yuma, you know I just cant pick up and leave it, he said he couldnt find a good guitar back up person. After Bernie Rasmussen passed away , Harry would ask me to play with him at contest, he taught me how to play guitar for fiddle playing, I spent many an hour jamming with Harry learning all the time, he even got me interested in learning the fiddle., I metHarry and Dawna in 1980 while they were here in Yuma during the winter months. I told him about the fiddle contest here in January, sponsored by the silver spur Rodeo put on by the Jaycees. He got into the contest right away when it was time to register. I got to meet a lot of Harry,s old freinds who played fiddle and Guitar some were Norwegian some were german descent, I had a wonderful time when harry was here. He would always call me when him and Dawna arrived. Dawna liked my roses and I would always give them veggies out of my garden , they were always grateful I had several episodes where we were putting on shows at RV parks here in town , I have video,s of these events with Harry playing his fiddle, these will always be cherished I have several newspaper clips with me and Harry advertising for up comming contest here locally, there is a lot more to say, and not enough room for it all, Harry will be missed much so that I cant describe it all…………………Dennis

  • Dorothy McCurdy says:

    I am so sorry to hear about Harry ,we meet him back in 1992-93 we came from Maine and my husband played banjo and mandolin and violin and gutiar. And my husband meet him threw Dennis Russell and they played at different camp grounds and they all enjoyed the good times. My husband’s name was Horace [Jim] McCurdy and they had some very good time with every one playing.My Jim passed back in Aug. of 2005. But I have some very nice memiores of him and I hope you remember all the good time that you have had with Harry I know I will.God Bless you all ———Dorothy McCurdy of Maine

  • Pam & John Borso says:

    So sorry we missed the celebration. We spent many times jamming, telling jokes & celebrating birthdays. Harry, we will surely miss you!

  • Your youngest says:

    Lucky remembers your music, Dad. Everytime I play it he comes running, wants to play, runs around the house some more, and then wants me to hold him, he purrs like crazy 🙂 And he still answers to “Mr Cat”. Love you & miss you.

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