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Marileen Elizabeth Johnson

The Wondrous Life of

Marileen Elizabeth Johnson

January 18, 1927  –  2021


Marileen Elizabeth Bolay Johnson was born in Falls City, Nebraska to Charles and Elsie Bolay. At 18 she left the farm for Westmar College graduating with a B.S. in Biology and meeting her beloved husband Don, of 70 years. In 1951, Don and Marileen were married and the adventure began. They moved to Boston in 1955 where Don attended graduate school at Boston University and Marileen taught at Honeywell Elementary in Wellesley, MA (her granddaughter later attended Wellesley College). An educator at heart, Marileen’s career as an elementary school teacher grew to working with adults developing, publishing and teaching Parent Education Programs throughout the world.


Soon, Marileen and Don were the parents of two daughters, Ann and Mary. They lived and worked in churches throughout Massachusetts and later Iowa. In 1977, they joined the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA),a global community of non-profit organisations advancing human development worldwide. Being part of the ICA they developed lifelong friendships through their activism.


Marileen’s kind smile hid a Warrior for social justice. A member of the League of Women Voters for over 50 years and an active member of Planned Parenthood since 1987, Marileen assisted national and local leaders to achieve office, and pass legislation as well as working on Peace Education and Peace Initiatives.


In retirement Don and Marileen fulfilled their desire to travel with trips to China, Korea, Russia, Taiwan, Europe and Mexico. Eventually they settled in North County of San Diego, where they could enjoy being part of their grandchildrens’ lives, attending baseball games, soccer games, football games and birthday parties.

Daughter, Granddaughter, Sister, Mother, Aunt, Grandmother, Wife, Educator, Social Justice Warrior, Friend, of all these roles and many others she played throughout her life, being a Grandmother to Robert and Sophia brought her the greatest joy in her later years and she took her role as Grandmother seriously…..A trip to legoland was always planned on a visit to Grandma’s house. Although cooking was not one of Marileen’s favorite pastimes she did have her specialties. Grandma’s waffles were famous with the under ten crowd as well as her Christmas cookies and lemon meringue pie.

Marileen is survived by her husband, J Donald Johnson, her daughter Ann, grandchildren Robert Khoury and Sophia Khoury, and her sister Anna Marie Worden.


Marileen and Don were part of the Local Church Experiment.  They worked in the Local Church Experiment in Salt Lake City and were part of the Edmonton Religious House in Canada.  John and I met them when they were in Iowa and we were in Kansas City and later back in Chicago. Their teenaged daughter Mary Johnson was part of the Student House and later became a teacher with handicapped students at the time of her too early death in 1983.

Don and John shared an avid interest in golf as well as the Local Church.  Our connections rekindled when John began his writing.  Their work in local community has been legendary with both California politics, and environmental concerns.  I recall that Marileen  and Don were part of the Campaign Managing team for John Gibson’s run for Mayor of Indianapolis.  Marilee’s Christmas letters of all that she was doing with schools  (she also was an educator) and local actions made me dub her as one of the Energizer Bunnies.  Don and Marileen were married for 70 years!!!

          ~~  Lynda Cock

Remembering the great years (early ’80’s) when the Johnson’s were at the Marshalltown Methodist Church where Don was pastor and we were in Lorimor/Kansas City.  A spirit-filled time in Iowa as we prepared for the IERD and …….  It was very special to partner with Marileen.

           ~~  Gail West

Yes, Gail, those are the years I was remembering also.  Marileen always had a down to earth attitude about any kinds of service that was needed.  I spent wonderful hours in her and Don’s company. When they moved from Iowa to Omaha, I followed their journey with church and Omaha politics.  They were always creating new models of care.  Love and blessings to the family.  Her hand-written Christmas cards were legionary.

          ~~  Jan Sanders


Oh, that smile lives on in my memory.  Such a privilege and honor to be in community with Marileen and Don. Love, Grace and Peace,

          ~~  Ellen Howie

We experienced Marileen and Don’s gracious hospitality in Iowa when we moved to Seattle from Ohio in 1988. After a time they joined us and our family for a backyard picnic here. We wrote every Christmas and followed their peace-making work all these years. Marileen was a a joy and a delight to share in life.

          ~~  Marian and Fred

I took RS-1 with Marileen at Rolling Ridge in North Andover, Ma. in March 1965 and never worked with her, but was always happy to hear of her work. Paz,

          ~~  Judith Hamje


Yes, she was always a joy to work with,

          ~~  Mary Laura Jones

What I remember about Marileen is being in the presence of a soul sister. A beautiful memory. 💕

          ~~  Nancy Lanphear


I do not remember all the details. But I remember loving working with Marleen.

          ~~  Judi White