Marla Phelps Johnson was born on February 23, 1949, in Montpelier, Idaho, the fourth child of Grove Martin Phelps and Roma Clark Phelps. She passed away on January 3, 2022, after a hard-fought battle with cancer. Her courage in facing this disease, like everything in her life, was undaunted.
Marla set the gold standard for the roles of wife, mother, and grandmother. She married Paul B. Johnson on June 7, 1967, shortly after graduating from Montpelier High School. Their marriage of 54 years was marked by unending love, joy, and devotion. They never liked being far away from one another and insisted on traveling everywhere together. Paul’s caring for Marla during her illness was tender, constant, inspiring.
Marla and Paul have five children: Boyd (Molly) Johnson, Dylan (Marilee) Johnson, Brooke Johnson, Ellie (John) Hansen, and Heather (Allen) Hatcher. The children grew and married and now there are fourteen grandchildren. Marla often spoke of not having a grandmother growing up, so she wanted to be the best grandmother she could be. She succeeded beyond dreams, giving love, attention, time, support, cookies. She will be missed sorely by her children and grandchildren, but her legacy of raising thriving and loving offspring will never be forgotten.
Marla was a supportive and loving sister to her many siblings: Marden (Jessie) Phelps, Reola Phelps (Kent Boesdorfer), Allyn Phelps, Melanie Phelps (Peter Sutton), Rhett (Leslie) Phelps, Bart (Dianne) Phelps, and Alice LaNae (Owen) Bartschi. In many ways Marla raised some of these siblings since she was near the top of the birth order of nine. There are countless stories of her demanding perfection in cleaning the family house in Bennington, getting younger siblings off to school, dishes, laundry. She was Aunt Marla to many nieces and nephews. Marla is preceded in death by her sister, LeAdelle Phelps, her loving parents, and her sisters-in-law, Lin (Rhett) Phelps and Linda (Allyn) Phelps.
Marla was a builder, a doer. After she and Paul were married, they moved to Salt Lake City where she attended the University of Utah for two years, earning an associate degree in office practices in 1969. Paul then announced that he was returning to Bear Lake Valley (enough of cities!) and he hoped she would come along. She did, and together they created home and businesses. Marla bought and built her successful title company, First Idaho Title, from 1988 to her retirement in 2018. She and Paul took over the Johnson farm in Ovid, Idaho which had been in the family for a century, naming it the P and M Farm, complete with livestock, farm buildings and machinery. There is no yard, flower, or vegetable garden to compare with Marla’s. She exalted in digging in the dirt, planting, watering, harvesting, canning, seeing the colorful blossoms in all seasons, mourning the first frost.
Marla loved life and was indomitable. She took joy in her family and in the beauty of Bear Lake Valley and the West. Her bicycling is legendary. Summer mornings she would bicycle from Ovid to Bern to Montpelier, crossing Bear River. She dreamed up the idea of the famous Tour de Lava, a 72-mile ride along Bear River from Ovid to Lava Hot Springs. Her family and friends held this annual ride for 20 years, and she would lead the pack, with most of them working to keep up with her.
Marla was also an exemplary community member. She participated wholeheartedly in the activities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, playing piano, singing in the choir. Her most rewarding position was Primary teacher and music accompanist, as she loved the children.
A graveside service for Marla will be held on Saturday, January 8, 2022, at 1:00 PM at the Ovid Cemetery where she will be laid to rest, overlooking the valley she loved, contributed to, and lived in her whole life
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