D. Blaine Johnson, 87 of Hesperia, after enduring the effects of kidney disease and the physical devastation of Lewy Body Dementia, died on January 28, 2021 at Fountain View Retirement Village, Fremont MI.
Dewey Blaine Johnson was born on May 12, 1933 at home in Newfield Township in Hesperia, the third and last child born to W. Dewey and Lucinda Johnson. Lucinda said she had sent Dewey to fetch Dr. Tompsett, but the baby was in a hurry and she delivered him herself. The family moved to the Volney area where Blaine attended the Daly School his childhood years until they moved one last time to the “Utley” farm on Baseline Road just SE of Hesperia, where Dewey and Lucinda leased the house and 80 acres from Mrs. McKee, State Senator Frank McKee’s widow. Blaine remembered the moving date as Pearl Harbor Day, Dec. 7, 1941. He and his sisters then attended Hesperia Public Schools, where he graduated in 1952.
Blaine excelled at farming, especially interested in dairy cattle, and he furthered his education by attending Michigan State College of Agriculture/Applied Science’s dairy short course for two years. He and some buddies then decided to join the Army during the Korean Conflict, and Blaine was sent overseas as part of the Japan occupation.
Blaine returned to Hesperia in 1956, discovering that Mrs. McKee wanted to sell the farm that he had grown up on in Dayton Township. He was able to finance the purchase of the “Home 80”, adding to the dairy herd.
Mutual friends Bob and Ruthan Kole introduced the young bachelor farmer to a young widow, their sister-in-law, Adela (Gebben) Kole, whose husband had died of Hodgkins Lymphoma, leaving her with three young children. The couple married on December 30, 1960, and would have four more children together.
Combining their names, they called their farm Dellaine Registered Holsteins. Blaine and Adela purchased more adjoining property, and in 1971 built a new tie-stall pipeline barn allowing them to double their herd. In 1973 the herd was exposed to the fire retardant Poly-Brominated Biphenyl (PBB) - tragically their highly pedigreed Holsteins, many bought for the expansion, had to be destroyed. Proceeds from a class-action lawsuit allowed them to replace their herd after a period of clean-up, but the experience of working with legislators, lawyers, the FDA, attending hearings, trying in vain to save their beloved herd, left Blaine cynical and frustrated with politics, government, and his fellow man. Blaine’s youngest daughter, a bottle-drinker at the time of the poisoning, had the highest level of PBB in her fat and blood in the state per body weight, with both Blaine, a huge milk consumer himself, and Tara exceeding the legal limit allowed in cattle. In the last few years, Blaine was able to give an oral history of his experiences to the CMU history project on Michigan’s chemical contamination.
Blaine became known as a progressive, outspoken, champion of the underdog, intellectual, successful dairy farmer and community leader. He was active in his dairy co-op, Michigan Milk Producers’ Association (MMPA), on its Resolutions and Advisory Committees. Blaine was politically active in Michigan Farm Bureau, on its board and attending conferences in Washington, D.C. He was on a first name basis with his state and federal legislators, and they didn’t have to wonder how he felt about the issues. Blaine also held positions at Michigan Animal Breeders’ Cooperative (MABC), and the Holstein Association. At the community level, Blaine held leadership positions at the Hesperia Baptist Church where he would sometimes sing special music, and was a school board member in the early 1990s at Hesperia Community Schools.
Many people were recipients of his prolific letter-writing efforts. Blaine’s wife, and later, his daughters and daughters-in-law, got the job of translating his scrawling handwriting and editing his pages of notes into readable print, sent to legislators, school officials, MMPA staff, breed associations, equipment manufacturers, and the like. Blaine was also a voracious reader. His hero was Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the novelist and Russian dissident.
As the next generation took over the reins of the farm, updated in name to Silver Sky Dairy, LLC, Blaine and Adela took a trip to Israel in 1995. Adela was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimers in 1997 and died in 2006. Blaine with the help of neighbor Janet Taylor were Adela’s caretakers till the last few months.
Blaine had his demons; depression became too strong, especially in the winter, clouding his golden years—he began to avoid family and friends. It ended a brief marriage to his neighbor, Maxine Annis, who stood by him through a hip replacement and travels together.
He was sad but understanding when his kids sold the dairy herd in 2014 and got out of the business. Blaine was able to live alone and independently at his farm house, even cutting his own firewood, till he had another hip surgery in December, 2016. Other complications made it impossible to return to his house, and he moved into Fountain View in January, 2017. His body dementia and minor strokes stole more physical functions away from him, and Blaine became wheelchair bound in June, 2018.
Blaine leaves behind his seven children: Janet (Kole) and Robert Lintjer of Fremont; Glenn and Peggy Kole of Bellaire; Winston and Cheryl Kole, and Lance and Nancy Johnson, all of Hesperia; Shari (Johnson) and Frank J. Konkel, of Branch; Shelley (Johnson) and Thomas Hale of Moore, SC., and Tara Star (Johnson) and Darryl LeTroy Bell of Muskegon; 21 grandchildren; 3 great-grandchildren; his sisters-in-law, Ruthan Kole of Grand Rapids; and Betty (Kole) Shetterly, of Lake Odessa. Along with his wife, Adela, his two sisters, Phyllis Norris and Betty Johnson, predeceased him. Special thanks go to Fountain View’s staff, in particular Shelley McDonald and Katrina Huffman, and Blaine’s physician, Dr. Randall Ceton.
A private visitation for close family will be held between 10:00 – 11:00 AM on Tuesday, February 2, 2021, followed by a public visitation until noon, at Kroeze-Wolffis Funeral Home of Fremont. Maximum of 25 people are allowed at any time and masks are required. A concurrent scheduled Zoom meeting from 10:00 – Noon will be held for people not wishing or unable to attend in person, for informal video chat with family and to pay respects.
A Zoom meeting memorial and celebration of Blaine’s life will take place for family and the public later the same day at 1:30 PM. Viewers are encouraged to interact via chat function during presentation. Blaine’s retired pastor, Mark Looman of Hart will officiate, and a group of Blaine’s grandchildren will lead the memorial service, including a slideshow of Blaine’s life in photos and personal stories from some of his seven children. A recording of the service will be made available to watch later.
Interment will be in the spring at the East Hesperia Cemetery. In lieu of flowers and for memorials, please consider Commission To Every Nation (CTEN) where Blaine’s niece and her husband, Jessica and Jonah Cajigas are serving in the Philippines.
To share condolences or memories with the Johnson family, visit www.kroeze-wolffis.com. Arrangements by Kroeze-Wolffis Funeral Home, Inc., of Fremont.
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