Gaynelle M. Johnson, 72, Duluth, formerly of Two Harbors, passed unexpectedly Sunday, February 9, 2020 in Essentia Health St. Mary’s Medical Center from a medical condition. She battled it courageously, it was her body that gave way, not her fighting spirit.
Gaynelle was born March 1, 1947 to Shirley “Tootsie” (Kirkus) and Kenneth E. “Bogo” Johnson in Two Harbors where she grew up and and graduated from Two Harbors High School, Class of 1965. Continuing her education, Gaynelle earned a degree in Education from University of MN Duluth. She aspired to be a second grade school teacher, yet teaching positions were hard to come by at that time. She dabbled in other areas of employment in Duluth until establishing herself and her career as a city letter carrier for the United States Postal Service in 1977 and served 30 years carrying mail until her retirement in 2007.
During her time as a letter carrier, she became VERY involved with the union and was a member of Branch #114 with the National Association of Letter Carriers. She served the union at both the local and the state level, breaking barriers along the way: She was the first woman to be the President of local Branch #114, she was the first woman from Branch #114 to be a delegate at the National Convention for Letter Carriers in Atlanta, GA in 1980, and paid her own way to attend. Gaynelle also served as President of the Minnesota Association of Letter Carriers. She was a union steward and held other local offices and was the first union facilitator in the employee involvement process. After her retirement, she remained active with USPS and worked part time for AMES Uniforms, selling postal employee’s clothing/apparel and continued to attend local union meetings up until her death.
Gaynelle loved unconditionally, was fiercely loyal, and was a selfless care giver to her younger sister for 15+ years after Shelley was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Gaynelle enjoyed a lot of sports, especially hockey due to her own children playing the game. She was affectionately called “Gma” by her grandkids and was devoted to them at all levels of their academics and athletics. She liked to read and do the puzzle page from the newspaper – she had a passion for birds and flower gardens around her yard.
She gave to many charities and was an environmentalist who loved mother earth. Gaynelle was an activist for justice, human rights, animal rights, a feminist for women rights and empowering females.
Gaynelle was preceded in death by her parents, and brothers, Michael “Bogo”, and Kirk “Erwin” Johnson; and uncles Milton (Coral) Johnson and Ronald Kirkus.
She is survived by her son, Ron Davidson; a daughter, Shawna Davidson; grandchildren, Hogan and Ailie Davidson; sisters, Denise “Deedi” Talbott and Shelley Johnson; sister-in-law, Patty Johnson; nieces, Monique Talbott, Erin (Eric) Daugherty, and Tracy (Christopher) Yard; great nieces and nephews Brendan and Rowan Daugherty and Memphis Yard; and many cousins.
The family would like to thank Essentia/St Mary’s doctors and nurses, especially the medical staff involved with her on the 7th floor S-ICU, we are forever grateful for your care and compassion toward her and our family members.
A Celebration of Gaynelle’s Life will be held from 1 PM to 5 PM with a program beginning at 2 PM on Saturday, April 18, 2020 at the AAD Shrine Meeting and Event Center, 5151 Miller Trunk Hwy. Duluth.
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