Cover photo for Beatrice Mae (Kallio)  Johnson's Obituary
Beatrice Mae (Kallio)  Johnson Profile Photo
1927 Beatrice 2016

Beatrice Mae (Kallio) Johnson

May 28, 1927 — May 5, 2016


Beatrice “Bea” Mae (Kallio) Johnson was born May 28, 1927, in Chatham, to Esther and Toivo Kallio. She was no ordinary woman, she was a saint. 100% Finnish and proud of it. She grew up in Chatham and lived her whole life there, but not without some adventures that took her to places other than her home base. Chatham is mainly a Finnish immigrant village where the Finnish culture and heritage is kept alive, especially, the sauna.

Bea had two brothers, Arnie and Harold, plus a sister, Alice, whom she loved with vivacious tenacity. Together they helped out at home and had time to play outside with the other families of kids growing up there, forming lifelong friendships.  The children of Jenny and Arvid Hill and Esther and Toivo Kallio, began there and continues to this day with extended family members.

Bea could be found climbing trees, plus many other adventures afforded a small town kid, like swimming in the Slapneck Creek. Imagination ruled the day as the families couldn’t afford to go out and buy things like toys or games.  She grew up with a great appreciation for what they did have as a result, weathering the challenges of life with her natural optimism, her never ending hopefulness, her amazingly positive attitude, and of course, her SISU. The depression wasn’t felt very much in Chatham and her family was able to maintain fairly well.

Bea attended Elementary School in Chatham and the high school for the area’s children was in Eben.  It was there in high school that Bea met her future husband, Clifford Johnson, from Limestone. It was love at first sight for them both. Clifford played basketball with her brother Arnie and he often came home after practice with Arnie.  Bea took pleasure in cooking spaghetti for Cliff, the only thing she knew how to cook at 14, during those visits.

When Bea was a junior in high school, the United States became involved in World War II, most of the boys in her class went into the service that year leaving only two boys and all of the girls. Clifford finished high school in 1943 and then enlisted in the Navy. Bea and Cliff were two years apart in age.

In the summer of 1944 Bea became a “Rosie, the Riveter” out in the Albina Shipyards of Portland, Oregon. She traveled there with Clifford’s mother and father and siblings. She told stories of she and Clifford’s sister Bea, scrubbing out the fuel tanks in the big ships docked there. She and Sister Bea worked the day shift, while the others in the family worked the night shift, taking turns sleeping in the one bed they had in the make one of the make-shift cabins built for the workers. She went back to school that fall to finish out her Senior year.

Bea graduated high school in 1945. A tragic incident happened in January of that year when the Hippodrome, where all graduations were held plus basketball games, and other activities, had burned to the ground. Many tears flowed as they watched their beloved building burn. Graduation was held up at Camp Shaw, in Chatham.

That summer Bea took a job in the office of her uncles’, the Kallio Brothers Logging Company. In the fall she headed off to Minneapolis, Minnesota to attend an air traffic controller program. When she completed this program she took a job in Barstow, California, with the railroad so she could be on the west coast when her handsome sailor ended his tour of duty in the Navy aboard the Aircraft Carrier, USS Yorktown.  The USS Yorktown was shuttling Army and Marine troops stationed in the South Pacific back up to States after World War II ended in 1945. Clifford was discharged from duty in Bremerton, Washington, in May 1946. He immediately headed south for Barstow, California, to reunite with his beautiful bride to be.  Once he got there, Bea gave notice at her job, they boarded the train to head back east to get married and settle in Chatham.

On June 15, 1946, they were married at Sion Lutheran Church in Chatham. They spent their honeymoon at a friend’s cabin on Twin Lake, motoring there in Jacob Louma’s 1932 Ford Coupe complete with a rumble seat.

In April of 1947, Dan, the first of their children was born and lives in Chatham in the home Bea grew up in.  Followed by Marsha, she and her husband Gerry, live in the Lower Peninsula in Waterford, Michigan.  David is the third child and makes his home in Chatham on the property where Dan lives. Don is the fourth in line and lives in Eben. Kay, the youngest, lives with her husband Dave in Colorado. When “Baby Kay” was born, the family moved into Bea’s current home that Clifford built, with the help of friends, 58 years ago. In 1964, Bruce Hill lived with the family as he finished high school in Eben and attended Northern Michigan University for a year, therefore becoming “Brother Bruce.”

Going to church was an integral part of Bea’s family and Bea’s grandfather, Jacob Louma, was one of the founding members of the Sion Lutheran Church, still going strong today. Bea’s faith in God has inspired countless others. She lived her faith, more by pure example than words. Her prayers were lovingly constant for all.

Family was always nearest and dearest to her heart. Her children, always precious in her heart, as well as all her nieces and nephews she considered as her own children. Her six grandchildren: Sam (Ashley), Tim, and Jon (Kate) Riley, Mica Rusk, Maddy (Josh) Ballard, and Jacob Johnson, and seven great-grandchildren brought her great pride and joy, as well as her grand nieces and nephews.

Throughout the years of raising and caring for her family Bea was a very active member of the community.  She held numerous positions and played various roles in a whole host of community centered groups and activities such as the March of Dimes, Rock River Township, in church, VFW Auxiliary, MSU Home Extension. Her contribution of time and caring has had a positive ripple effect of much good throughout her years of service to the community.

In 1965 Bea began filling in and working Saturdays for the US Postal Service,with five kids still in school, the whole family had to pitch in and help with the daily responsibilities of raising a family. In 1983 Bea became the Postmaster for the Chatham Post Office until her retirement in 1992.

During the years of employment as Postmaster, Bea and Clifford were able to take numerous trips around the country to visit family and friends. They were even able to get in a trip to Scandinavia.  Clifford spent his last several years in the Jacobetti Veterans Home in Marquette, Bea faithfully at his side until his death in 2004.

Bea stayed active throughout her life until the minute she passed into heaven.  She kept up on all the activities of her children and grandchildren, attending major events when she could in all of their lives, as well as those of extended family and friends. Beginning in 2010 she was able to be by her daughter Kay’s side frequently in Colorado, as Kay battled Stage IV Cancer for five years, currently cancer free!

In December of 2014, Bea suffered a heart attack and recovered, much to the relief of all who knew and loved her.  Then just this last week, May 5,  while in the sauna, right next to where she was born and raised, the Lord took her home to heaven.

I imagine there was a glorious reception waiting for Bea as she polka’d through the gates of heaven as Jesus greeted her with arms open wide saying, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.”

Services will be held at the Sion Lutheran Church in Chatham on Wednesday, May 18, 2016. Visitation will be from 11:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.  Pastor Paul Kelto will officiate Bea’s funeral service at 1:00 p.m.  Interment will be at the Pine Grove Cemetery in Chatham.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Beatrice Mae (Kallio) Johnson, please visit our flower store.


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