Celebrating the life of Norris James Johnson
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Norris was born in 1932 to John and Esther (Sandem) Johnson of Melville. He attended Wheeler Butte Grade School and graduated from Sweet Grass High School. He then went to MSUB in Billings to play basketball and further his education. He loved to tell stories of the days of traveling to out of town games with the basketball team. A favorite story was about a trip to play Dickenson (ND) and the bus broke down and the team had to hitch hike back to Billings. After 1 year of college he returned to the family ranch on Wheeler Creek where he spent the rest of his life doing what he loved – ranching.
Norris was married for 51 years to Elaine “Pippy” Johnson and raised 2 sons on Wheeler Creek Ranch. Norris was a true steward of the land. He respected the land, the livestock and understood the harmony that exists between being a rancher and taking care of the land. He was always ready to help other ranchers in need and developed many genuine friendships based on integrity, trust and mutual respect with ranchers in the community. He would always stand up for what was correct and fair in the world. Everyone in the community knew Norris would be there to lend a hand whenever they were in need. He loved taking long drives, looking at the countryside and appreciating the beauty of the land. He passed on this same love and respect of the land and ranching to both his sons.
Norris loved all things sports related. He enjoyed games of horseshoes and bowled in the town league for many years and was an expert trap shooter. He could always be found at sporting events cheering on his sons and supporting all the kids of Sweet Grass county. However, his favorite thing to do was fly fish. As a boy, he and his brother would finish haying and hike from Wheeler Creek to Big Timber Creek to fish. He was often seen fishing Thorvald’s Pond and Sweet Grass Creek. He loved hiking into the Crazies and fishing lakes in the Sweet Grass Canyon and even hiked into Hell Roaring 9 times in one summer. He would often “sneak away” at the end of the day to fish, leaving Pippy and the boys wondering where he had gone. He also enjoyed televised sporting events; basketball was always his favorite.
Norris also enjoyed a good joke. He loved to laugh. Many kids that grew up in the Melville community reminisce about “Norrie pointing a finger at me.” He carried on the tradition with his 2 granddaughters. In later years, his granddaughters brought him much laughter and joy. He loved teasing them and they loved teasing him back.
Norris was involved in the community. At Melville Lutheran Church he was a Sunday School teacher, choir member, helped build the Parish Hall and held several church offices. He belonged to the Jaycees, Yard and Scale board, Melville Volunteer Fire Department, Sweet Grass Planning Board, and the Sheriff’s Posse.
Preceded in death by his parents, John and Esther (Sandem) Johnson and sister-in-law Margaret (Elmer) Johnson. He is survived by his brother Elmer Johnson (Idaho), his wife Elaine “Pippy” (Anderson) Johnson, sons Gary (Hope) Johnson, Marvin Johnson, granddaughters Aubrey and Marie Johnson, many nieces and nephews and several beloved godchildren. Norris leaves a legacy of integrity and love and is missed by all that knew him.
In lieu of flowers please consider gifts in his memory can be made to the Melville Volunteer Fire Department, Melville Lutheran Church or a need of your choice.
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