Katherine Ramona Barrett Johnson was born October 2, 1929 in Cortez, Colorado to A.V. (Buss) Barrett and Opal May Tracy Barrett. Ramona was a tiny and frail baby girl with underdeveloped lungs. She was so tiny, in fact that she fit in a shoe box. Her parents were told she may not make it, but Ramona was a fighter from the very second she was born. She proved the doctors wrong and grew into a beautiful, strong, and resilient woman. Just 18 months after Ramona was born, Buss and Opal brought another daughter into the world. Her name was Ardith May. Ramona and Ardith were inseparable, and Ramona immediately became Ardith’s protector.
Ramona passed away peacefully in her sleep on Saturday, January 23, 2021 at Vista Grande in Cortez, Colorado at the age of 91.
The Barrett family traveled from job to job, slept in their cars and tents, before finally settling in Dove Creek, Colorado. In 1939 Buss and Opal bought and ran a café from Cash Jones, which was located down by the Dove Creek Bridge for $300.00. Their home was in the back of the building. There, Ramona and Ardith learned how to cook and waitress. They were as happy and content as they could be and most importantly, they were home and close to family. Ramona and Ardith were able to spend precious time with their sweet Grandma, Kate Barrett and absorbed themselves in her wonderful stories of old. Ramona adored her and spoke of her until her last days.
Ramona attended school in Dove Creek; she excelled in business classes and writing. She was her class’s secretary and wore the blue and gold proudly as a cheerleader. Her senior year she fell madly in love with the class president. He was also the captain of the basketball and baseball team. He was a stocky built and often times “cocky” (Ramona’s words) farm boy from Cahone. His name was Bob Johnson. One of her favorite stories was when Bob and Bill took her out shooting on one of their dates. They decided to have a shoot-out to see who could shoot the best. They decided that the winner would win a brand-new Remington pump .22 rifle. They jokingly asked Ramona to join. They agreed with great glee to allow her in the contest. She out shot both of them and claimed the gun. Did she give them a chance to redeem it, of course not! She made the comment that she believed in quitting while ahead. Over the years the little rifle has been pretty much wore out from the thousands of rounds fired, but still hangs proudly on the wall. Bob said after that day, he had to marry that girl because he needed her to swear to secrecy about him being beat by a girl. They married right out of high school and were married for 64 years until Bob’s death in 2010.
Although her laugh was contagious and her smile broad, she endured tragedy in her life and hid her broken heart well. Her first-born daughter, Susan, passed away at birth. Her mother, whom Ramona cherished, was killed in a car wreck shortly after she and Bob lost Susan. They lost their third son, Brian, at birth as well. Recently, Ramona lost her daughter Cindy. Her story was joyful, but also heart breaking at times. She never lost her faith in God. She gave her heart and soul to the Lord and would often comment that He gave her an incredible strength to persevere.
In 1951, Ramona gave birth to her second child, a son named Dan Duane. He was the pride and joy of both the Barrett and Johnson families. Cindy Opal came two years later. Ramona was very proud of her little blonde haired, blue eyed girl. In 1957, Rob Alvin was born. She talked about finally getting a red head. They moved to Page, Arizona where Bob worked on the Glen Canyon Dam. He became a truck driver, security guard and was a member of the Sheriff’s Posse. Ramona started working for the Bureau of Reclamation and the Johnson family found contentment in the town of Page. When she discovered she was expecting again, she and Bob decided they needed to get back to Dove Creek where the kids could get closer to their grandparents. In June of 1963, their ornery and chubby daughter Kati Wynona was born. Their family was complete and the Johnson family would become very busy with every club, sport, and activity available in their home town.
Ramona was Bob’s side kick and the team mom. She never got into the horse activities or the hunting and fishing trips, but she cheered loud from the stands and made fabulous meals day in and day out for her big family and their friends. She loved to go to ball games and was always aggravated at the refs for picking on her innocent kids, and later on her grandkids. She loved watching all of the sports but, struggled with football. She could never figure out who was who. She asked Chess one time if he could tie a balloon on his helmet so she could find him. While raising kids in Dove Creek, Ramona sold Avon, worked for Selective Services, worked at the Dove Creek School as a librarian and teacher’s aide, and later became the eligibility tech for Dolores County Social Services. She retired in 1994 at the age of 65.
Ramona relished being a mother, but being a grandma was her greatest delight. Her favorite thing was to rock babies and sing to them. She loved rocking chairs and made sure all of her kids, grandkids and greats had their own. Each grandkid learned to drink coffee early on, listen to her stories and sing Irish songs, and eat until they couldn’t hold anymore. Her house meant ice cream bars, hot pockets, cheese sandwiches, fried chicken, chow mein, pumpkin pies, oyster stuffing, and the very best pinto beans ever made. Her table was constantly full, and her heart and arms were always, always open to any and every child. Ask any grandkid, and they would swear that he or she was her favorite. They would fight for a position on her lap. They would beg for raw potato slices while she peeled them for dinner. To them, grandma’s house meant love and safety and fun. Grandma Mona’ was a guardian angel to each and every one of her grandchildren. It didn’t matter how much trouble you were in, or what you had done wrong. Grandma Mona’ was always going to take your side and make you feel like everything, no matter how bad it seemed, was going to be alright.
Ramona had a kindness that knew no depth. She loved, offered, and gave unconditionally. When Bob became ill, she took care of him fiercely. When her sister, Ardith, became a widow and fell ill, she took care of her. When grandkids needed her, she responded with immediate willingness. She and Bob proudly raised four children and their two oldest grandsons, Jed and Chess. They provided stability and guidance for more neighborhood kids than they knew. She was always willing to open her doors to anyone.
Ramona’s life was always full of good coffee, an occasional glass of beer or wine, and stories of old- usually about her grandparents and cousins. Her Barrett and Tracy families meant the world to her, and she extended their legacy of love and joy through her stories and example. She loved music of any kind and enjoyed playing the piano. Tragically, she lost her hearing in her twenties due to a high fever from the measles. She learned to read lips, turned the sound and captions on, and made the very best of her handicap. She loved watching singing and dancing shows- especially Dancing with the Stars. She had a laugh that came all the way from her toes. You couldn’t help but get tickled with her. She was known to cuss from time to time. She would apologize, but then she would just continue on with her crooked grin and knee slapping laughter.
She spent her last years living at the Vista Grande Inn where everyone loved and enjoyed her. She was the bell of the ball. She would roam the halls singing (and occasionally cussing) for all to hear. She was still able to receive communion and was regularly visited by family members, friends and Father Pat. She loved her little St. Jude church and every single member in it. She said she always felt such a peace here. These are Grandmas words “Without my faith in God and belief that there is another life beyond this one I could not function.” “I wonder about those who will follow. What you will look like, where you will live, what will your names be? I hope you are nice, I hope you are kind and I hope you can love life like I did.”
Ramona is survived by her sons, Dan and wife Neta Johnson and Rob and Karon Johnson; her daughter Kati and husband Buddy Banks; her grandchildren, Jed, Chess, Jennifer, Jolene, Ashley, Michael, Jesse, Kris, Lenore, Amanda, Shandra, Brennan, Jaclyn, Kori, Brandon, Braiden, Kyli, Blane; her great grandchildren, Kaylee, Mason, Landen, Ava, Sarge, Tanner, Allex, Blake, Brooklyn, Cooper, Taylor, Zaine, Kaige, Keaton, Kennedy, Deklyn, Griffin, Aspyn, Kreede, Jaxton; and her very special cousin and friend Carol Brewer.
She was preceded in death by husband Bob; infant daughter, Susan; infant son, Brian; daughter, Cindy; sister, Ardith Fiorenzo; father and mother Buss and Opal Barrett; and mother-in-law, Ruby Johnson.
They say that a legacy is not leaving something for people. It is living through and in the hearts of people. And that is exactly what she did. She lived life for her family and her faith. Both were her world. Walk in the sunshine Grandma, with the hummingbirds and clover. Walk with your loves, and sing at the top of your lungs, “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” and “Old Gray Mare.” Rest in the arms of our Lord Grandma…. Peace be with you.