Henrietta (Etta) Barbara Johnson earned her angel wings and flew home into the loving arms of her Savior on November 22, 2021. Etta was born on May 4, 1929 to Rose and Tony Olbert of Eau Claire. Etta was raised with her sister, RoseMary, in a home on Barstow Street. The girls attended school at St. Pat’s. Their father insisted that the girls attend college before they married. Etta attended Eau Claire Teacher’s College (now UWEC) and graduated with an Education Degree. Her first job was in Wisconsin Rapids as a Kindergarten teacher. Etta met her first husband, Frank J. Lowry, while attending college, fell in love and was married to Frank on August 11, 1951. They had 8 children together. Frank died suddenly on December 10, 1963.
Through a YMCA program for widowers called “Parents without Partners”, Etta met Rupert Johnson in 1964. Rupert, who was widowed with 3 children of his own, began courting Etta. Against all odds, they were married on September 24, 1966. The blended family became known as the Johnson-Lowry’s and they moved to a home on Webster Avenue. Legendary stories of the Webster families made up of the Sirianni’s, Donnellan’s and Johnson-Lowry families were spun throughout the 60’s and 70’s where community and family were embraced. Shared meals, street games, ice rink hockey in the Loken’s backyard, and schooling were intertwined in an often comical, but always loving and highly active environment. The family feels there should have been a lifetime award presented to Etta for the most sporting events ever attended, as all 11 of her children participated in sports year-round through the YMCA and Memorial High School. The custom-made kitchen table, complete with 10-foot oak benches to seat the family of 13, was a gathering place for family dinners but also for Etta’s ever-present sewing machine. Patching and preserving clothing for the inevitable “hand-me-downs” were never a source of embarrassment but a badge of pride.
A woman of tremendous faith, Etta & Rup raised their Catholic-Lutheran blended family in the church. It didn’t matter which church the children attended, but that they knew God and gave back to the community. Etta took pride in canning and pickling fruits and vegetables; her dill pickles were highly acclaimed among the neighbors. Etta’s jars of strawberry-rhubarb jam were also highly coveted. Her children have fond memories of her invention of 1% milk as she learned to stretch a gallon of whole milk with 2 gallons of powdered milk. The basement haircut stool remained set up year-round, for all those willing to have a “quick buzz.” In a world of endless laundry, matching socks often were marked with initials or colored thread for sorting. Etta’s friends often referred to her as the Energizer Bunny and a Saint, for her active lifestyle and her willingness to give back to those in need. Etta attended church at Newman Community and spent countless service hours as a volunteer at Sacred Heart Hospital over the years. She took pride in working and donating through Sojourner House and Hope Gospel Mission.
Etta went to work for the Eau Claire School District in 1974 where she worked as a secretary for Arlington Heights and Manz Schools and eventually at the EC District offices for the Superintendent. She retired in 1995. She served on the UWEC Alumni Board for numerous years and took tremendous pride in being a Golden Blugold. Etta is preceded in death by Rupert (January 2, 2000) and her son, Tim Lowry (October 22, 2018) Etta is survived by her children: Betsy Ward (Brian), Tom Lowry (Colleen), Dan Johnson (Lori), Peter Lowry (Kathy), Dan Lowry (Linda), David Johnson (Penny), Peggy Heimstead (Kirk), John Lowry (Carol), Frank Lowry (Diane), and Mary Kay Lein (Gary). She was a proud grandmother to 24 grandchildren and 23 great grandchildren.
Grandchildren: Benjamin, Carolyn, Kathryn, Lisa, Peter, Dan, Christopher, Brandon, Bradley, Brittany, Megan, Emily, David, Frank, Valerie, Matt, Jake, Brett, Kyle, Grace, Gus, Eric, Sara, and Adam.
Visitation will be held from 4-7 PM on Friday, December 3, 2021, at Hulke Family Funeral Home at 3209 Rudolph Rd, Eau Claire, WI 54701 and masks should be worn. A visitation, prior to the funeral, will be held at Newman Catholic Parish at the Ecumenical Religious Center at 110 Garfield Avenue, Eau Claire, on Saturday, December 4 at 10 AM, followed by mass at 11 AM. Again, masks should be worn. The burial will be a private ceremony.
In lieu of flowers, Etta has requested that donations be made in her memory to Sojourner House-Catholic Charities or Bolton Refuge House, Inc.
Friends and family may offer condolences online at www.hulkefamilyfh.com.
Hulke Family Funeral Home & Cremation Services, 3209 Rudolph Road, Eau Claire, WI 54701 is assisting the family with the arrangements.
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