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I was so fortunate to be raised on my parents’ ranch on the Mesa outside Meeker, Colo. That little town is still somewhat protected from the pitfalls of the big city. Neighbors include everyone who has a Meeker address, and there are generations still calling it home after a hundred-plus years.
My early childhood was truly blissful. For six years, I was the baby of the family. I can remember so many experiences I shared with my parents. I recall the time Daddy dumped Mom and me off the top of hay bales piled high on the old black Dodge pickup. No serious injuries were sustained, but the cab looked mighty inviting to me for the rest of the ride. I cherish the memory of Mom finding a volunteer turnip in an abandoned garden. She pulled it up, brushed off the soil and peeled it with her fingernails. It was the sweetest and most tender turnip I ever ate.
Other memories I am fond of recalling are: Daddy giving Mom piggyback rides around the kitchen; Mom doing the Charleston around the same kitchen; Daddy’s “musical” accompaniment as he started the fire in the mornings; Mom disguising string in the pancakes on April Fool’s Day.
Then there are my brothers and sisters. My brother, Gene, was the best big brother in the world. He was my “monkey” and never excluded me from anything. My big sister, Vera, read Nancy Drew mysteries to me and played paper dolls with me endlessly. My big brother, Bruce, would tease me to the point of embarrassing tears. My younger sister, Jennie, was a sweet addition to our family. Then there was Debbie, my sister who became a great friend in our adulthood. Kathy rounded out our family of seven children. She was always a blessed and sweet addition to the clan. My adolescence found me being a headstrong, determined, exploratory young woman. My parents might have seen me as obstinate and rebellious.
I married Kenneth Johnson on June 22, 1965. Our marriage was graced by the birth of our daughter, Robyn, on March 23, 1967, followed by the birth of our son, Chad, on Sept. 14, 1969. They have been the most amazing children any parent could hope to have. I have had such pride in watching them grow into kind and supportive adults as well as being fantastic parents themselves. My husband and the children’s father died in a car accident on June 16, 1985. That experience brought us closer. It provided a glimpse of the strong character each of my children was developing. They have been my rock through the most difficult times in my life.
During the 11 years I worked for the Meeker school lunch program, I met one of my dearest and truest friends, Carol, whose friendship is as strong as ever. I began college in 1988. I attended Mesa State College and graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1993, with a degree in English and an elementary education certificate. I began my teaching career in New Castle in the fall of 1993. I was part of the original staff at the new Kathryn Senor Elementary School in 1997. It was a glorious time as I was fortunate to teach with the “Flakes,” one of the strongest teams of teachers ever! And where would I be without the “Babes” — our Friday morning coffee group; good coffee, good conversation, a couple of fantastic road trips and bonds that cannot be broken. I stayed on track with teaching until my retirement except for a brief stab at pole dancing, which left me bruised, somewhat embarrassed and none the richer.
Two of my proudest professional accomplishments were completing a master’s degree from Grand Canyon University in August 2003, and receiving the Teacher of the Year Award from Community Newspapers of Colorado in 2007.
Waiting to greet me in heaven are my husband, Kenny; my parents, Spec and Josie Clapper; brothers Gene and Bruce; and sisters Debbie and Jennie. Surviving me are sister Vera and her husband Ear.l; sister Kathy and husband Darin; daughter Robyn and her children Jared and Sydney; son Chad, his wife Aly and their son Kellen; stepdaughter Geneva, her husband Nate and their children Malachi, Andreas, Shiloh and Melea; stepson Mason; brothers- and sisters-in-law Jim, Sharon, Wayne and Vicky; and many special nieces, nephews and cousins.
Over the past months as my body began to fail me, I also enjoyed many, many blessings. Friendships were renewed, new friendships were formed, God’s presence in my life became stronger and my faith more solid. My relationship with my children is now even more solid and fulfilling than before. Many people have asked how I have kept my faith strong and my attitude upbeat during this time. I can only say that I’m just one tiny twinkle in God’s multitude of witnesses. The faith, peace, and the love of our Lord are there for everyone. Each of us can be a witness to the Lord’s blessings and benevolence. So, I encourage all of you to open your hearts and let your light shine.
Memorial Services will be held at the United Methodist Church in Meeker on April 20 at 10 a.m. Memorial donations can be made in Vina’s name to Harden Hospice in Glenwood Springs, or the E. Dene Moore Care Center in Rifle.