Cover photo for James J. Johnson's Obituary
James J. Johnson Profile Photo
1934 James 2023

James J. Johnson

August 24, 1934 — November 6, 2023

Big Lake, MN

James “Jim” Johnson, 89, of Big Lake, MN formerly of Ellendale, ND passed away peacefully with family at his side on Monday, November 6, 2023. Jim was born on August 24, 1934 in Oakes, ND to Jesse and Mildred (Rector) Johnson. Jim was the youngest of two boys. His big brother, Robert was 6 years older. Jim grew up in LaMoure, ND, being active in many sports, including baseball, basketball and football. After graduating from LaMoure high school, Jim attended Jamestown College in Jamestown, ND, where he majored in Education/Mathematics and played football. Upon graduation from Jamestown College, Jim started his teaching career in Gardner, ND. During his first year of college, he met Jeanella (Jean) Staeck from Kulm, ND. A few years later, in the summer of 1957, they began dating. Shortly after, Jim was drafted into the Army. During a leave, Jim popped the question, and they set a date for November 18, 1957 during a subsequent planned leave. The army had other plans however, and the date was delayed until he was granted his leave, and they married December 22, 1957. Jim and Jean first lived in Georgia where Jim was stationed. He was then transferred to the Army base in El Paso, TX. It was during this time that the couple found out that they were expecting. Bruce Jay was born prematurely on July 22, 1958, and passed away 4 days later. The Army then transferred Jim to Taiwan, and Jean moved back to North Dakota while Jim finished his military service. Upon discharge from the Army, Jim resumed his teaching career in Bowdon, ND. The couple welcomed their second child, Timothy Jay during their time in Bowdon. Over the next several years, Jim taught and coached in Wishek, ND, Kulm, ND and Page, ND. In May of 1970, Jim and Jean adopted their son, Thomas Jesse. Later that summer, the family moved to Ellendale, ND, where Jim took a new job at the High School. In February of 1973, Jim and Jean adopted their daughter Tracy Jo. Jim would spend the remainder of his career in Ellendale teaching high school mathematics and coaching women’s track and field, football, and other academic clubs. After 40 years of teaching, he retired in 1998. Jim was involved in many organizations and causes in Ellendale. He was a proud supporter of Ellendale Cardinals athletics and was active in the Ellendale Quarterback Club. He also was active in his church, Christ the King Lutheran, serving on the Church Council and singing in the choir. Being proud of his military service, Jim was a member of the American Legion in Ellendale, often serving in the Honor Guard at various events. Jim enjoyed going on the annual fishing trip with the “Lake Lida” fishing group, known to many as UNL, for many years. He always had stories to tell about each summer’s adventure. Over the years this incredibly loving family grew and grew. As Tim, Tom and Tracy’s families grew, Jim and Jean added 3 “children-in-laws”, 11 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren. In 2016, Jim and Jean moved to Lake Crystal, MN, where they adopted their cat Ellie (named after Ellendale) and in 2021, they moved to Big Lake, MN. Jim suffered a heart attack at the age of 48 in 1983. Over the years he had two rounds of bypass surgery, and several stints. Jim lived for 40 years after that first heart attack, which is quite remarkable! In 2021 Jim suffered a stroke, which robbed him of his ability to speak clearly. For a guy who spent his whole life as a communicator, this was very frustrating for him. He really missed telling old stories, jokes, talking about his favorite NFL team, the Minnesota Vikings, local goings on, and current events. During all these years and adventures, Jim and Jean fostered more lifetime friendships than you can count. Many of these friendships have lasted more than 65 years. Jim was fiercely proud of his family, and loved spending time with his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Jim also had a significant impact during his career as a teacher, being a mentor to many, many new teachers that he worked with over the years. He was especially proud of the impact he had on the many hundreds of students he taught over the years and of the athletes he coached too. His former students will tell you that he was known as a teacher who demanded discipline, but who had a heart of gold and unending patience with kids who needed help with his math classes. Jim is survived by his loving family; wife of 65 years, Jean Johnson of Big Lake, MN. Sons; Tim (Nina) Johnson of Ypsilanti, MI; Tom (Kim) Johnson of Big Lake, MN; Daughter, Tracy (Todd) Stromswold of Sioux Falls, SD. Grandchildren: Kimberly (Erin Anderson) Johnson, Sara (Bo) Gleason, Page (Mike) Holst, Natasha (Will) Brawley, Bailey Zastre, Alisa (Elias) Moore, Taylor (Noah) Hansen, Abby Stromswold, Emma Johnson, Kaitlyn Stromswold and Andrew Johnson. Great Grandchildren: Brooklyn, Jayden, and Rylee Holst; Lucas, Sophia and Skylar Gleason. Sister-in-Law, Darlene Antrobus. Nieces/Nephew: Taryn (Johnson) Selvey, Darren Robert Staeck, and DeNae (Staeck) Andrews. Jim was an animal lover and will be missed by his cat, Ellie (named after his former hometown, Ellendale). Jim was preceded in death by his parents, Jesse and Mildred (Rector) Johnson, his brother, Robert, infant son, Bruce, his Father-In-Law, William Staeck, Mother-In-Law, Emma (Shuldheisz) Staeck, Brother-In-Law DeWayne Staeck, Sister-in-Law DeAnn (Whalen) Staeck, Nieces: Pamela Johnson, Stacey (Johnson) Smith, and Nephew DeWayne Robert Staeck.
The funeral is 11am Saturday, November 11, 2023 at Christ the King Lutheran Church, Ellendale with Pastor Lucinda Lien officiating. Visitation is 4-5:30pm Friday, November 10 with a prayer service at 5:30pm at Hoven Funeral Chapel, Ellendale. Burial with Military Honors is 9am Tuesday, November 14 at Fort Snelling National Cemetery, Minneapolis, MN. Jim’s service will be livestreamed here on his obituary page. Arrangements by Hoven Funeral Chapel.
To watch the service live: keep moving down this page and watch for a black box. At time of the service, click the red area to start the live stream. Please note the service is also recorded and saved here for viewing at a later time.
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Service Schedule

Past Services


Friday, November 10, 2023

4:00 - 5:30 pm (Central time)

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Prayer Service

Friday, November 10, 2023

5:30 - 6:30 pm (Central time)

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Funeral Service

Saturday, November 11, 2023

11:00am - 12:00 pm (Central time)

Christ the King Lutheran Church

713 3rd Ave N, Ellendale, ND 58436

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Tuesday, November 14, 2023

9:00 - 9:30 am (Central time)

Fort Snelling National Cemetery

7601 34th Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55450

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