Friends, family remember Kathie Johnson as a loving adventurer
Richard Johnson remembers every detail of the day his daughter, Kathie, gave birth to her first child.
“This is Kristopher Richard,” Kathie said as she held out her newborn son. “I named him after you.”
On Wednesday, the memory of that moment couldn’t be described in words.
Richard just patted his heart with his hand and smiled.
“And, it still makes me feel like that,” he said. “She was a daddy’s girl.”
Richard traveled to Craig from Illinois with his wife, Beverly, for a memorial service in honor of Kathie, who died in a hotel room in Glenwood Springs on Oct. 14.
She was 51.
About 100 people filled the pews in the church Wednesday morning at the Faith Lutheran Church. Kathie’s co-workers from the Craig Police Department, as well as many other law enforcement officers from Moffat County, joined her friends and family at the service.
In the front pew, Richard sat next to the aisle where Beverly’s wheelchair was parked, and while he stood and prayed, he loosely held her hand and stroked it during Pastor John Turner’s service.
Eric Plate, Kathie’s youngest son, spoke on behalf of his family to thank the community for their support during difficult times.
“Friends and family were the biggest thing to her,” he said to the sea of blue and green uniforms. “You meant the world to her. She loved her job and loved the people she worked with.”
He also talked about the anger he felt when he first heard the news about his mother’s death. It wasn’t until Tuesday night that he remembered his mother’s favorite saying.
“She always said, ‘Isn’t it funny how we focus on what angers us most instead of what makes us happy?'” Plate said. “Through all of this I’ve been an angry person, and until last night I didn’t take the time to slow down and mourn for my mother. I’m going to live my life by this.”
After the service, a luncheon gave many of the attendees a chance to give their well wishes to the Johnson and Plate families, as well as share memories of their own.
Each of those stories seemed to share two common themes: the outdoors and Kathie’s infectious laughter.
Craig Police Cpl. Travis Young said he had known Kathie since 2000. He recalled a backpacking trip in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area.
The two had to take off their shoes and cross a river.
Kathie reached the other side, and Young tried to toss her hiking shoes across the stream.
They landed right in the river.
“I had to jump into the raging river and go after them,” he said. “And, she was just standing there laughing and laughing.”
He rescued the shoes, but said if he hadn’t, she would have walked the rest of the way barefoot without complaining.
Kathie’s sister, Vickie Highley, recalled an incident with a broken-down ATV and being dragged alongside it as it rolled down the trailer ramp.
“Kathie and I just fell in a pile laughing,” she said. “The ATV hasn’t worked since that day.”
Kathie also loved winter sports, Highley said. The vanity plate on her car described her to the world as a snow chaser, and she loved to ski with her family.
Highley mentioned the time Kathie crawled down from Cedar Mountain with a broken ankle, and her many encounters with skunks while working as an Animal Control Officer.
“She didn’t care at all about getting sprayed,” Highley said. “She didn’t let anything deter her from doing her job. When she got that job, it was like she had found her calling.”
The outdoor-loving enthusiastic and motivated woman Kathie had become was no surprise to her family.
Kathie was the girl who took care of their brood of kittens each time their cat went out and came home pregnant.
She was the girl who blissfully wished for horses of her own, which she finally owned at her home in Craig.
She was the girl who invited her father to a father and daughter dance in the eighth grade and wore a homemade pink dress with cowboy boots.
“She was a Western girl,” Richard said. “She really was.”
And, appropriately, the poem that decorated the program was called “Colorado Mountains,” and ended with two peaceful lines:
“I just want to rest where I rest the best,
In those Colorado Rockies of mine.”
Nicole Inglis can be reached at 875-1793, or email@example.com.
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