Donna May Johnson
May 26, 1943 - Dec 12, 2017
Donna May (Armstrong) Johnson of Mill Valley passed away peacefully from complications due to Alzheimer’s Disease on Tuesday, December 12, 2017, in San Francisco. She was 74 years old. Donna was born on May 26, 1943, in Phoenix, AZ to Donald and Virginia Armstrong, and spent her formative years in Westchester (Los Angeles County), attending Cowan Avenue Elementary, Orville Wright Junior High, and graduating from Westchester High School in 1961. She attended Westmont College in Montecito (Santa Barbara County), graduating in 1965 with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature and a minor in Health Sciences. Donna went on to earn a master’s degree in Physical Therapy from the University of Southern California and co-authored two peer-reviewed articles on pediatric muscular dystrophy in 1971.
Donna married her Westmont College sweetheart, John Johnson, in December 1967 and they moved shortly thereafter to San Francisco, a couple of blocks from the old Kezar Stadium. With John taking postings as a dental surgeon for the US Navy, they lived in San Diego and White Sands, New Mexico, before settling in Mill Valley in the home in which Donna would spend the rest of her life. Donna worked in rehabilitation facilities across the North Bay as a physical therapist prior to the birth of her first child, John Eric, on December 26, 1976, who tragically passed away at just under 2 months old from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome on February 17, 1977. Her son Aaron David was born May 29, 1978, and a third child, Andrew James, was born February 17, 1981.
Volunteering at Mill Valley Public Library in the early 1980s, Donna eventually secured a part-time paid position as a library assistant. Having determined to become a librarian, she began studies in Library and Information Science at San José State University in the late 1990s, receiving her master’s degree in 2000. This allowed her to become a full-time reference librarian at Mill Valley Public Library, where she also coordinated volunteers and community outreach until retiring on her 65th birthday, in 2008.
Ever athletic, Donna was an avid yoga practitioner, hiker, and mountain biker, who reveled in exploring the hiking and biking trails of Mount Tam and the Marin Headlands. She enjoyed visiting San Francisco frequently, attending the symphony and visiting museums, and exploring the small, out-of-the-way places unknown to tourists that make the city so interesting. She was also an explorer by car and enjoyed adventuring throughout the west coast in her blue Volvo station wagon, from the North Coast Redwoods and the Eastern Sierra, to the beaches of Southern California and the Pacific Northwest. She was a kindhearted, generous, and gentle soul with a sly wit and hearty laugh. She treasured her family and friends and made a lasting impression on those who knew her well. She is sorely missed but lives on in treasured and loving memory.
Donna is survived by her sons Aaron (Maya) of Mill Valley and Andrew (Cristina) of San Rafael; her grandchildren Sofia, Gillian, Mila, and James; her longtime partner and SJSU classmate Ken Lyons of Santa Cruz; and many other dear friends and loved ones. A celebration and remembrance of Donna’s life will be held Saturday, May 26, at the Mountain Home Inn on Mt. Tam from 11am to 2pm. Anyone with thoughts and memories to share is most welcome to attend. In lieu of flowers, please make donations in Donna’s name to Marin Agricultural Land Trust.