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Doris Vivian Adeline (Erickson) Johnston was the middle child of Adolf and Edna (Nelson) Erickson, born on October 17, 1932 at their farm home, known as the Makowsky miles north of Norquay, with her aunt Minnie Nelson as the midwife. Aunt Minnie had graciously delivered Phyllis 2 years prior and a six years later she helped deliver Gordon before Dr Green was able to get to the farm.
Doris and Phyllis grew up like twins and dressed and decorated little brother Gordon as if he was their live doll. Doris wanted to be a hairdresser from the age of 10 so Phyllis let her create many messes of her hair in an attempt to practice the future career. Doris was the one who could ride a horse and Phyllis not so much, so Phyllis was given an old swayback horse named Bonnie to ride. Doris rode Topsee, who had a little more speed and Gordon had Danby, who was a younger and faster horse. One Halloween the three of them and Don Freise went on horseback to the George Johnston farm (also Leslie’s home), to play some Halloween tricks. When George heard them out in the yard, he started shooting. It was the only time Phyllis and Bonnie beat Doris, Gordon and Don’s horses home. Another time Berget Runneberg was also along when they were attempting to do some Halloween pranks, this time Leslie and Dennis figured out they were in the yard, so Leslie and Dennis took their horses and hid them, and they were out-pranked had to walk home.
As a youth doing her part on the farm, Doris’ dad sent her to town one day with the 4-horse team to get a load of fertilizer. When she got to town the elevator manager refused to help her load the 100 lb bags of fertilizer. She unhooked 2 of the horses, backed up the team and wagon closer to the fertilizer, then loaded the all the bags of fertilizer, hooked up the team and drove home. Perhaps this explains how she could often leg wrestle with Clifford Severson and would flip him almost every time. Another time Doris and Gordon were riding horses to Uncle Ralph Nelson’s at night. On the way, the neighbor’s horses came running to their horses, Doris’ horse bucked her off and she flew off her horse and into the back legs of Gordons horse. She was knocked her cold and her horse took off, so Gordon loaded Doris on his horse. Around that time she came to, so they kept going to Uncle Ralph’s for a visit.
In the winters Doris, Gordon, the Hanchar’s and the Moore’s would hang lanterns on the willows and skate on the slough just north of the Erickson home. After skating they would go in the house, Doris would play the accordion others would play some musical instruments and the music would go on into the night.
One late fall day Doris, Gordon and Glennis (Moore)King decided to take a metal stock tank into the slough for a boat ride. Gordon manned the bow of the makeshift boat, breaking the ice as they went. Doris and Glennis were near the back pushing the make-shift boat forward with sticks. At some point the make-shift boat floated up on to a hay coil in the slough. The front of the tank went up, the back of the tank went down and in came the water. Then wet and walking they went home.
While in their youth, Doris and May Severson had learned that a family in the river valley only had one box of macaroni left in the house to eat and not much more than shredded blankets for warmth and it was winter. They took a team of horses and a sleigh, then went to all the neighbors to ask for donations of food, blankets or clothes. They were gone all day with the team and sleigh, neighbors were generous, and they arrived at the family’s home with a wagon load of supplies.
Doris attended Grand Ravine school completing Grade 8, then studied Grade 9 & 10 by correspondence. She then stayed at the Chris Knutson home during the week and attended Norquay school for grade 11 & 12. (Side note of interest, that 67 years later in 2017, Chris Knutson’s great grandson, Douglas, married Doris’ granddaughter, Danaye.) Upon finishing that grade 12 year, Doris, Art Severson and Elvie Knutson became the first graduating class of Norquay High School in 1951. Meanwhile Phyllis had gone into nursing training, Doris had been so lonesome for Phyllis and had written endless letters to her, that Phyllis still treasures. Doris then decided that she should enter nurses training so she and Phyllis would not have to be apart so much.
Somehow after finishing nursing school, Doris had saved up enough money to buy a blue 55 Plymouth car for $500. Then mom and her nursing school friend, Nita Straker, Nita’s brother Murray and his friend set off in the 55 Plymouth for BC for 2 weeks. She often talked about how this was such an adventure.
Phyllis had become the matron of the old Norquay Hospital. When Doris finished nursing training, Phyllis hired her to work at Norquay. In 1956 when the hospital was slated to close, Phyllis and Doris ended up being the only 2 nurses left on staff, so they worked the last 6 weeks as the only 2 nurses, trading off working 12 hour shifts.
On November 10, 1956, Doris married the love of her life, Leslie Johnston, at Grantsburg United Church. They moved to Flin Flon where Leslie worked in the mine. Brian was born while they lived in Flin Flon, maybe that was what emphasized the longing to return to Norquay. They moved to the Graham farm north of Norquay a couple of years before Wendy was born. Then just over a year later Colleen came along and 11 months after that David arrived. With all those little kids, Doris kept a stall ready in the barn for the kids while she milked cows. Later they bought the Farmerton place close to town, where the Norquay garbage dump is now. Their final farm destination was the Jack Demetrick farm, which was back in the old Grantsburg School community, north of Norquay, where they had both grown up.
The kids remember Doris teaching them work was a necessity, helping garden; clean; wash dishes; pluck chickens; feed pigs; help with laundry in the spinner or wringer washer; hang clothes on the clothesline; bale; stack bales; harrow,…. giving them no reason to be bored. Doris and Les let the kids make messes, play outside, try to ride the various horses dad brought home from the auction, shoot gophers, go to cousin Barry’s and sometimes bike to other neighbor kids,…. They remember Sunday’s with church, rotisserie chicken with mashed potatoes, jelly and whip cream and company for Sunday suppers. Doris was known for the cotton candy texture of her scratch angel food cakes with whip cream and strawberries, a staple for coffee or any event. Although she always felt Polly’s scratch angel food turned out a little better and didn’t know why.
Doris had returned to nursing at Norquay Hospital part time when they moved back to Norquay from Flin Flon. One winter day, Doris was scheduled to work, and the roads were blocked. Doris did not miss work, so she rode a horse to work. When she got there, she threw the reins over the horse’s neck and let him go and the horse went home. Another time when they lived on the Demetrick farm, the roads were blocked, and Doris had a shift to work. Dennis and Marie had come over by snowmobile and Dennis drove Doris on the snowmobile to the highway to meet Wayne Rudachyk who was able to get her to work. In 1971 there was a full-time public health nurse opportunity for the Hyas to Preeceville area. Mom applied for the job thinking the benefit would be Monday to Friday work and no shift work, so she would be around for the kids more of the time. The outcome was she found so much satisfaction in this type of nursing her work days began early in the morning and ended in the evening and she was home on the weekends. She loved the baby, preschool and school vaccination clinics, assessing and assisting babies and children with improving development. She had a passion for people, when she would learn of a difficult home situation, she would visit, listen and look for an opportunity to assist making life better. It wasn’t unusual for her to take pack up someone and take them to the doctor or to the hospital so they could have a bath. Travelling to remote farm yards, she said she didn’t worry about the farm dog when she arrived, but had to pay attention when she was leaving. It was only one time that a dog reached in and grabbed her by the arm as she got in the car. She had a thick coat on so was fine. Leslie would worry about Doris travelling who knows where on rural roads, somewhere between Hyas – Preeceville and north as far as Endeavor, that if she had trouble, he would have no idea where to start looking. Doris did have difficulty getting home, although it was because she was still nursing somewhere. When John Sopotyk called Doris to ask her to be the Director of Nursing at Norquay Hospital, Doris was hesitant because she loved public health nursing. Leslie was happy when she accepted the job, so he didn’t have to worry if she would safely get home at the end of the day. Doris found that the only thing that did not bring satisfaction as D.O.N. was the one day a month she had to put aside to get some administration work done. She thrived on enabling staff to see the value of their contribution to the whole of Norquay Hospital. Ron Kitchen recalls when he would come for his monthly accounting day, how he always looked forward to that day of work. He said it was common to find staff there on a day off volunteering to do something or joining cake at coffee time for some reason. One time when Doris was at a management conference, the instructor asked her, what would you do if you found put you’re your maintenance man had done something very irresponsible. Doris said neither of our maintenance men would do such a thing. The instructor persisted, saying what if they did, what would you do. Doris said I would go to them immediately, because it would mean something was terribly wrong. Later at the break in the conference, the instructor came to Doris, telling her that very likely you are the only person here who understands how to really manage people.
Doris nursed, first, with her eyes and ears then her hands. One time a lady had been admitted and based on her history and presentation, she was diagnosed to be psychological pain, therefore was being treated for psychological problems. When Doris came to work a few days later. She attended to the lady, then asked the Doctor if he would order chest x-rays. The lady had 4 fractured ribs and was then sent out for further treatment. Doris had told of three times she witnessed clear miracles while nursing. One of those times was a when a woman was admitted in full labor. Upon assessment, Doris knew there was no way for a live birth delivery, transfer out for cesarian was not an option for some reason. Doris prayed. The baby was born, all was well. Living the heart of nursing, one day Doris was talking to a lady in the grocery store, as she asked her how she was feeling, the lady said she was just at the doctor and he had diagnosed she just had the flu and would be fine. Doris told her, you do not have the flu you have a stomach bleed and need to go to the hospital immediately. The lady was not convinced, so Doris went out to the car and told the person this lady was with, that she must take her to the hospital immediately. This lady did go to the hospital, of course Doris was correct. The lady and family were ever so grateful to Doris. Dr McKitterick once told Doris, that she was the best teaching doctor he had ever had.
Doris was so often the first call for family, friends and neighbors in any sort of physical or mental health event. One of the times was when something happened to a neighbor lady. The husband picked up his wife and brought her to Doris at home. Then they rushed her to the hospital. One of the times, David and Charlene phoned their mom to say they had taken one of the girls to the doctor, the doctor had given something and said she would be fine. Doris told David and Charlene, the doctor is wrong, I can here her cough, you have to take her back and get treatment for whooping cough. They did and Doris was right.
After Doris’ grandson, John’s accident, physicians at Regina General Hospital, wanted to transfer John to the Yorkton Hospital for convalescence. Doris said maybe he should just come home and I will look after him. John’s mouth was still wired shut, he was fragile and required assistance to reposition in bed, so Wendy was hesitant about the extent of care needs, however confident that there was no other place where he would get better care. John went to gramma’s house. A couple days later, while Wendy was up north with a house full of people working on their house, Doris called to say John has a bleed somewhere. One option was to call an ambulance to take him to Preeceville, but she felt moving him was risky. She told Wendy to leave for Preeceville, as there was no doctor in Norquay. She would call Preeceville and ask the doctor to prescribe medication appropriate. The doctor had never seen John as a patient, however he agreed and the prescription was ready. The medication worked.
Somewhere along the way the Stiff sisters were created. Initially Jean Johnson and Doris, later Joyce Johnson and Doris. It is for sure the Stiff sisters had more fun with this creation, than the audience. Every practice was just as much fun for them as the performance, even if Doris could not convince Joyce to take out her teeth for the show. Their last performance was to a standing ovation with a full house at the Communiplex in 2012 for the Norquay Centennial.
Doris retired from nursing in 1993, after 19 years as the Director of Nursing, to care for Leslie as he was fighting cancer. On November 12, 1993, Doris called Wendy to tell her Leslie accepted Jesus into his heart and he knows he will be going heaven. Doris felt there would soon be an end to the battle with cancer and on January 6, 1994, Leslie went home to heaven. Doris has quietly missed him ever since. Doris and Leslie were a quietly united couple. Doris prided herself for knowing in advance or knowing just by Leslie’s look, what he wanted. She would tell the kids that she was only to happy to get whatever or do whatever he was wanting, because that is just what you do. She supported the kids and grandchildren similarly. When the chips were down, Doris was dragged along to whatever the situation, whether it was helping with the twins, moving, painting, cleaning, babysitting, wedding preparations, helping when anyone was struggling, helping when Dave had a busted up leg, helping when someone was sick, moving and painting some more. Doris loved when Wendy and Brian had the cattle and didn’t miss a chance to help, even when all she could do was fill syringes and manage the medication and notes. If she was at one of the kids, usually Wendy’s, or one of the grandchildren’s homes and was in the house while there was a project going on, she cleaned, did laundry and cooked so when everyone came in, fresh coffee and lunch or the meal was on the table.
A few years after Leslie passed, Doris sold the farm and moved to Norquay where she had a large undeveloped yard that she eventually converted into a scenic park. In June 2020 Doris moved into Norquay Long Term Care. Shortly before she passed, an old friend Reuban Johnson came to visit and prayed with the family giving thanks for her life. She passed away peacefully with family giving back by holding her hand as she had held the hand of so many as they left this life.
Family that Doris will join in Heaven are: husband Leslie, parents Adolf and Edna, brothers-in-law Herb Blomquist and George Theissen, great-grandaughter Brooklyn Rudachyk and grandson John Naclia.
Living to honor her memory are: son Brian Johnston (Karen Esakin) , daughters Wendy (Brian) Naclia, Colleen Rudachyk (Glen Nagy), son David (Charlene) Johnston, sister Phyllis (Colin) Jones, brother Gordon (Genoveve) Erickson, Grandchildren, Kris (Ange) Naclia, Danaye (Douglas) Yarycky, Bobbie (Trent) Roebuck, Dustin Rudachyk, Fawn (Taber) Yastremski, Ashley Johnston (Renaud Lehmann), Serena Johnston (Mitch Garrison), 15 great grandchildren, friends Emily Schweigert and Gay Tower and many other friends and relatives.
A visitation for family and friends was held on Friday, March 10, 2023 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Norquay Covenant Church.
Funeral Services were held on Saturday, March 11, 2023 at 2:00 p.m. at the Norquay Covenant Church.
Memorial donations in memory of Doris may be made towards a blanket warmer for the Norquay Health Centre as gifts of remembrance.