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With profound sadness we announce the passing of LaVeta Rencher Johnson, age 80, on July 1, 2020 due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease. Born April 28, 1940 in St. Johns, Arizona to Clarence and Vivian (Chapman) Rencher, she learned faith, hard work, and humility from these saintly, valiant parents. She was also blessed to grow up with three brothers who always loved and protected their sister.
LaVeta graduated from high school in St. Johns, AZ, and then attended Brigham Young University, where she met her eternal companion, Ralph Elmer Johnson, on a blind double date. The two boys had both been missionaries in Norway and spoke in Norwegian in front of and about the ladies until Mom raised her malt shake and with her best attempt at a Norwegian accent exclaimed, “Skol,” or Cheers. Afraid she might have understood them, the boys immediately quit talking in Norwegian.
LaVeta and Ralph were married in September 1960 in the Mesa, Arizona temple. She deeply loved her husband and the seven children that followed. For most of their marriage they lived in northern California, raising their children in Sacramento and Folsom.
The great trial of LaVeta’s life came in 1974 when she lost her youngest son Stephen, who had Down’s Syndrome. Stephen was only one year old, and her other children remember Mom’s deep distress and suffering as she grieved for her little boy. Perhaps no anguish of the human spirit matches the anguish of a mother for her lost child. Fortunately for those of us whom she touched, the depth of Mom’s grief was easily matched by the height of her devotion and love.
LaVeta instinctively knew that her mission in life was to be a loving wife and devoted mother and grandmother. She was truly loved by her children and simply adored as “Bubba” by her 25 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren. No worldly concerns ever came between her and her beloved grandchildren. They will always remember her hugs and kisses, swimming in her pool in Folsom, making crafts at her house, the thoughtful birthday and Christmas gifts she sent, her collection of dress ups, and especially the Bubba tea parties she frequently hosted. She loved all of us to the moon and back!
LaVeta was a lifelong faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She loved to serve and minister to others and always went the extra mile in her church service. She held many leadership positions in church and would spend hours preparing to make her lessons meaningful. She was also the perfect example of what it means to be a shepherd here on earth--of not forgetting the “one” or the “lost sheep.” We remember her very long family prayers that to her children seemed to last for hours. No one was ever forgotten. She had a very tender heart towards all those she knew, and everyone who knew her loved her in return. She was the perfect peacemaker. Her gentle, warm smile was emblematic of her inner love which could melt even the hardest of hearts.
As a child LaVeta longed for the day she could enter the Holy Temple to make covenants with her Heavenly Father. Temple service was very important to her throughout her life. She worked in the Oakland and Sacramento temples and later in life travelled with her husband to every temple in the United States and a few outside the United States. Mom would spend hours in her office planning these trips--arranging everything to coincide with local temple schedules and sessions.
Missionary service was also deeply important to her. She served three full-time missions with her husband, in Germany, Nauvoo, IL and Roseville, CA, and she was always an enthusiastic supporter of her children and grandchildren in their missionary service. The gospel of Jesus Christ and service in the church, community and family meant everything to her.
“Bubba” was a wonderful cook who had to guard the rolls and stuffing before they could make their way to the table--which often looked like a work of art for special occasions. Her favorite time of the year was Christmas, when her house was transformed into a magical place, where everyone wanted to come and stay. Her love of decorations and crafts didn’t end with Christmas, but Christmas was her favorite. Family and friends would gather during this time to celebrate the birth of our Savior while enjoying the magical atmosphere of the Bubba North Pole. She loved to read and was in one book club for over 40 years. She was a true friend and was loved by all who knew her.
LaVeta also loved music. She could play the piano and organ and would invite others to sing to her or to join along and sing with her. As little children, we especially loved the songs such as “Dumbo” from the old yellow Disney book. Even in the later stages of Alzheimers she could still play simple hymns.
In summary, her life was a living, humble example of Paul’s counsel to the Ephesians, “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).
We wish to extend our heart-felt gratitude to the staff of Courtyard at Jamestown in Provo, where she spent the last year of her mortal life. They truly loved her and will forever hold a very tender place in our hearts.
She is survived by her husband Ralph Johnson, her brothers Alvin, Leonard and Grant Rencher; her children, Paul Johnson (Debbie), Celeste Kitchen (Gary), David Johnson (Mary Lynn), Jennifer White (Darin), James Johnson (Evelyn) and Cheryl Everett (Brandon), 25 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her parents, Clarence and Vivian Rencher, her brother Stephen Rencher, and her son, Stephen Nephi Johnson. Due to Covid-19 concerns her life will be celebrated in a small gathering of family members at Nelson Mortuary in Provo, UT on July 10, 2020.
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