July 3, 1921-March 8, 2012
Palo Alto, California
Submitted by Kenneth Johnson
Surrounded by her husband, all their four children and many grandchildren, Evelyn Pleasant Johnson passed away quietly at 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 8, 2012, at Kaiser Hospital in Redwood City. Cause of death was lung failure, culminating a year of progressive decline in lung capacity.
A resident of Palo Alto since 1931, Evelyn (usually called Evie) was the fourth of five daughters of Carl and Gertrude Pleasant. Her father, a noted civil engineer, died in 1931 from a mastoid infection, leading to the family's move from Phoenix to Palo Alto, where her eldest sister, Nelly Catherine, was enrolled at Stanford.
Each of the sisters -- Muriel, Betty, Evie and Marjorie -- followed her to Stanford after graduating from Palo Alto High School. Evie was a member of Paly Class of '38, and she graduated from Stanford with the Class of '43, as a chemistry major. Their mother, Gertrude Copley Pleasant, continued to reside in Palo Alto, even after her subsequent marriage to Donald I. Cone, a well-known engineer for Pacific Telephone.
Evie was active in the youth groups of the Palo Alto First Congregational Church, where she became acquainted with a fellow Paly student, Kenneth W. Johnson. Even though he went off to Caltech for his undergraduate training, their romance survived the separation, and they became committed to each other while she was performing defense work at Alcoa in Los Angeles and he was working on a Navy research project at Caltech. Ken eventually transferred to active duty in the Navy and when he was assigned to a ship in the European Theater in 1945 they decided to get married on Jan. 17, 1945.
After the war ended, they returned to Palo Alto, where Ken completed a master's degree in Electrical Engineering at Stanford and he then began working as an engineer in at his father's company, Johnson-Williams, arguably the earliest electronics business in Palo Alto, in 1947.
Evie, following the custom of the times, stayed home and raised their family of four children, Carol, Marjorie, Larry and Douglas, all of whom graduated from the Palo Alto school system. Carol is now Dr. Carol Sharp, a practicing psychologist, Marjorie, a special education teacher in Vacaville, Larry a production engineer for Ken's present company, KWJ Engineering Inc. of Newark, and Douglas the owner of Cal-Draulics Inc. in Corona, Calif., a designer and manufacturer of aircraft hydraulics components.
Among them there are 11 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, a close-knit group that participates in many family activities, including a recent 65th wedding anniversary that was celebrated as a re-enactment of the original ceremony at the Stanford University Chapel, and drew attendees from eight states, Holland and Belgium.
A unifying custom, maintained for many years, was a two-week family vacation at Tahoma on the western shore of Lake Tahoe. Evie was always enthusiastic about swimming, and was taken water-skiing for the last time on her 60th birthday. In later years, Evie and Ken took numerous overseas trips, business and personal, to Europe, Japan, China, Australia, Latin America and New Zealand, and she delighted in friendships with a family in Japan, whose daughters spent time in the Johnson home here. And she particularly delighted in the friendship of a family from Nigeria.
Evie was active in numerous women's groups in Palo Alto, one of which, the PEO Sisterhood, she continued to the day of her death. After all the children left home, she returned to the work force, acting as Treasurer and working as bookkeeper at Ken's businesses, first at GasTech Inc. and finally, until last year, at his retirement business, KWJ Engineering Inc. She then kept active intellectually with membership in a book club, even while limited in range because of her need for oxygen.
Her generosity is legendary, particularly toward those who are less fortunate. If contributions in her name are desired, the family suggests they be made to The Southern Poverty Law Center or to the California State Parks Foundation.
A memorial service is planned at First Congregational Church of Palo Alto on March 30 at 2:30 p.m. All are welcome.