Retired, acclaimed teacher Kathie Johnson dies at 72

Decorated longtime Wayland language arts teacher Kathie Johnson died at her home in Otsego Sunday, Sept. 18. She was just four days shy of her 73rd birthday.

Kathie Amanda Johnson (Kate) was born on Sept. 22, 1949, in Tustin, Mich., to Robert and Opal Johnson and grew up in the tiny community of Helmlock. She graduated from Marion High School in 1968 and Central Michigan University in 1972.

She taught high school English for 30 years at Wayland Union High School, where she was awarded the Katheryn Lorraine Brenner Outstanding Teacher Award in 2004. She also was recognized by the State of Michigan in 1997 as a representative of local teachers of the year.

After retirement she was adjunct faculty at Western Michigan University School of Education, training and mentoring new teachers as she had mentored colleagues and student teachers during her tenure at Wayland.

She and lifelong partner Bart Volkers did a lot of traveling, grandparenting, and creating a home together in Otsego. They spent winters in Tavernair, Fla., and created a new community of friends who became family. Kate loved travel and she and Bart spend many spring breaks in Jamaica. She traveled to Europe with friends and family and even a trip to Israel with church friends and family.

She loved special sister week-ends with her sisters and nieces. Kate was a great reader and part of several book groups. When grandchildren were involved in sports Bart and Kate were in attendance, proudly wearing the colors of their teams.

Kate was a member and elder of the Plainwell Presbyterian Church.

She is survived by Bart Volkers, his children Kimberly (Mike) Getty, Karen (Dennis) Keller, Kurtiss (Jennifer) Volkers and grandchildren Carl Anthony, Amber Marie, Allison Jo, Madilyn Jane, Blake Lawrence, Mallory Kate, Maxwell John and Avery Joy. Great grandchildren Dawson, Wyatt and Maverick.

She was preceded in death by a grandson Alec Lee. Her siblings who love her are Larry Johnson, Sue(Dan) Teare, Tim (Teryn) Johnson, Deb Johnson, Jill (Craig) Haney, nieces Cheyenne Johnson, Sarah Teare and Jennifer (Scott) Peterson, nephews David Teare, Nathan (Kristin) Haney, Neil (Stacie Larson) Haney and great nieces and nephews Caleb, Luke and Abby Peterson; Levi, Gabe, and Vivian Haney.

Memorial gifts in her memory may be directed to Christian Neighbors. A service to celebrate her life will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 1, at the First Presbyterian Church in Plainwell.

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