Gustav Sigfrid Johnson (Swede)
1935, 1790, Rochford, F-5 Member
1935-39, 2757, Narrows (Blue Bell), SP-3 Member, Ass't Leader, Leader
August 14, 1918 - March 6, 2015
Brother, Uncle and Friend
Walk in the Shadow of the
So you may have a
Safe and Happy Journey
Reflections on the Life of Gustav Sigfrid Johnson
My first memory of Gus was one summer day in 1927. I was using our one and only "toilet", which was an outhouse close to our farmhouse in Hitchcock, South Dakota. I was peeking through a knot hole in the wall and suddenly I could see some fellows entering the house, carrying my brother, with blood oozing from a wide cut in his scalp. At that time, he was almost 9 years old. He had been out in the field where the fellows were spreading manure and somehow fallen off a wagon and dragged behind the spreader. It was a ghastly cut and a shock to my mother who already was caring for Father who was very ill and of course also her family of eight children, Joseph, Hilda, Carl, Johnny, Swen, Gustaf, me and George. The one and only country doctor in town was called and he came to the house, sewed the scalp together, and soon Gus was running in the fields again with a scar under his hairline for the rest of his life.
That summer our father died on August 7, which was my 4th birthday and Gus turned 9 on August 14. Back then nicknames were quite common, and Gus was often called "Teeps". His full name was Sigfrid Gustav Johnson and was generally known as Sigfrid.
After our father died, things became very hard for Ma (to us kids our parents were always Pa and Ma) to carry on alone with the farm and the large family. The Great Depression started and the whole country entered turbulent times. In 1932 Pa'? sister, Aunt Hilma, in Sweden made it possible for four of us kids, Carl, Johnny, Swen and me, to travel to Sweden and she arranged for our care. A year later she also brought Ma, Sigfrid and George (nicknamed Billy) to Sweden. Ma's mother, Mormor, was still living, and Ma and Billy stayed with her further north in Västerås, Gus stayed with Aunt Hilma, Swen and me in Angelholm. Gus, then 15, had completed 2 years of high school and 3 years as a Boy Scout in Hitchcock. Swen and I were in grade school in Sweden, and Gus went to one year of high school there. We always walked to school, and I remember how some of the Swedish kids would make fun of me. This is when I remember Gus came to my rescue and really scared those kids both in English and Swedish. I was never bothered again.
Gus stayed another year in Sweden and worked in a nursery or greenhouse, but in the summer of 1935 he decided to return to the USA. Our oldest brother, Joe, was working in the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) and was able to help Gus with a ticket on a Swedish American ship to New York. Gus applied and was enrolled in the CCC at Blue Bell, South Dakota on October 30, 1935 and was honorably discharged on March 31, 1939 by reason of expiration of term of enrollment. Gus worked his way from enrollee to leader during the years he served. Years later, Peggy Sanders, historian, wrote of his experience for the CCC website, "He was the only CCC worker who was ever given a superior rating by 1st Lt. Carl G. Paulsen, Company Commander. Apparently his work ethic was his ticket to staying in longer than most."
Gus attended the reunion of the National Association of CCC Alumni in Rapid City, SD in October 2005. At that time, we learned that his buddies from the camp days called him Swede Johnson. Gus admitted to them that he was a South Dakota boy at heart and was glad to be at home, if only for a week. They toured all the places in the Black Hills where they had built new roads, bridges and cabins - all beautiful creations of the infrastructure that we can still enjoy today.
It was still hard to find good jobs in South Dakota in 1939. Gus hitchhiked and rode the freight trains to Washington, Oregon and California to work in the field, picking potatoes, peaches and cherries for only pennies a day. He knew he would eventually be drafted so that year he and a friend enlisted in the Army Air Corps. He served all during WWII as crew member on aircraft carriers - the USS Enterprise and USS Forrestal were among them. Gus was discharged from the Air Force February 4, 1953. All my brothers, both in Sweden and the USA honorably served in the military during WWII; Gus received the Korean Service Medal.
I was on my own in Sweden and it wasn't until many years later after the war that I met up with Gus again. I was attending UCI and Gus was working in the aerospace industry in Lancaster, CA. Tori and I went to visit him there, and I remember so well the fabulous bacon wrapped filet mignon that he himself had prepared and served us. That was his specially, along with his ever-present hospitality when someone would pay him a visit.
Gus had a lifelong interest in aerospace of any sorts and flourished working in that area until his retirement from McDonnell Douglas. He performed maintenance and became very knowledgeable on a wide variety of aircraft. I believe Gus was most proud of the great responsibilities he held in the sea trials for the A-4 Skyhawk attack jet. Even after retirement, Gus kept up on industry news.
Years passed. I was employed at the high school and living in a big house in Lindstrom, Minnesota. My mother had finally spent a few years, including her 90th birthday, with me in my home. She passed away in 1980. Gus came to the funeral from Southern California where he was retired and living alone. There, he had become very close to our niece, Sherlyn and her husband Dimitri. The love, compassion, help and assistance that they gave him was priceless and still endures.
After Ma departed, I asked Gus to move back to Minnesota to live in my spacious home, which he did 1982. Gus quickly settled into life in Lindstrom, and we became lifesavers for each other. Gus was in poor health, but with the proper medical care and a good home he became well and strong. He was still in his 60's, and for 18 years he worked like a young man. Nothing was impossible for him. Fridhem, our home, became a showplace. Gus painted and repaired every nook and corner. He mowed the huge lawn, planted and watered flowers in summer, raked the leaves from all the linden and apple trees in fall and snow blowed the long driveway in winter. My industrious brother even built a dock on the lake for a fishing boat and a house for ice fishing. I now understand how he could sit for hours in that little house, staring at a hole in the ice and suddenly pull up a big walleye...it was the peace and quiet of shutting out the world and just being alone!!! I felt that same solitude whenever Gus would decide to take a few days off and fly over to Las Vegas and I would have the whole house to myself.
Gus simply loved Las Vegas! For him, being there was fun and recreation with fishing on Lake Mead. He made frequent trips and would always encourage others to join him, which occasionally happened. In fact, we had our last "family" reunion there with George and his wife Mabel, Sherlyn and Dimitri, Gus and me to celebrate our August birthdays in 2008, a glorious few days of sightseeing, eating and just reminiscing happy times together.
The years rolled by. I was retired and Tori, my daughter, was married and had two little boys. I was anxious to be near them in Fresno, CA. Gus had lost Roger, his one and only son from his brief marriage with Anita, but had 2 grandsons, Roger and Doug, in Colorado Springs. In 1999, we sold Fridhem, packed up our belongings and moved close to our grandchildren. Gus was 81; I was 76.
Gus went on to live in Colorado 15 more years. He had his own apartment and cared for himself. His grandson, Doug, was always there for him and he met a lovely lady, Vicenta, in the same apartment house who became a good and caring friend. One of her cats loved to spend the day on the couch in Gus' apartment. One morning in December, two years ago, they went to enter and found Gus on the floor. He had a stroke and ended up in the hospital, which led to the Pikes Peak Care Center in Colorado Springs. There he received loving care and kindness from all the nurses, who enjoyed getting to know him. "Walking in the Shadow of the Great Spirit, he went on his Safe and Happy Journey" on Friday morning, March 6, 2015.
I loved all my brothers. Each one had many of the same characteristics that were planted in us by our Dear Mother. Live by the Golden rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Be honest and law abiding, and most of all, have faith in our Heavenly Father and believe in Prayer. Aunt Hilma always emphasized a good education and to learn all you can, as knowledge is something that cannot be taken from you. No one followed these rules more than Gus.
Gus was proud of his Swedish heritage, but he loved his country, the United States of America and especially South Dakota and the magnificent Black Hills. What FDR did for the young men of The Great Depression inspired these boys to become real men, True Patriots who gladly defended our Flag and Liberty. Gus loved and appreciated all the friends who were kind and caring. He was never greedy and found anyone who was despicable!
Gus was my brother and my best friend. He was a quiet man. He never showed much emotion. I knew he suffered and grieved deeply, but he kept it all inside. He accepted what life served him and even in the nursing home he abided his time patiently, and the few times we could visit him he greeted us with a big smile and no complaints.
Bless all of you who were with him to the end! Now he's Gone Fishin' in the Cool Shadow of the Great Spirit, and, as he wished, his cremains peacefully rest in the beautiful Black Hills National Cemetery in Sturgis, South Dakota.
Do you have additional information about Gustav Johnson
We would like to included it. Fill in the form below to send your information. Please include a valid email address or email from your own email client to: history "at" SouthDakotaCCC "dot" org.