This past February Sidney resident Ada Johnson turned 102-years-old.
Johnson said she holds close memories of riding horses on her family’s ranch and creating a wonderful life with her late husband, Ward.
Johnson was born and raised in Cheyenne County on a ranch about 25 miles southwest of Sidney.
She had three older sisters and her parents had another daughter and a son several years later.
“I loved the horses,” said Johnson with a smile on her face almost as though she could still picture it clear as day. “I was practically born on a horse I think. We each had our turn at being our dad’s cowboy.”
Johnson said that she had a wonderful childhood and that she and her older sisters were like best friends.
“I had a delightful childhood. We had to be creative and think of our own games, we didn’t have all this stuff to buy like kids do now. It’s funny because my three older sisters all aspired to be teachers when we were kids and that’s why one of our main games was always school and I had to be the pupil,” she laughed.
Johnson said that she was homeschooled and then went to a country school until about seventh grade when her father decided the family should move to Sidney and the girls should go to high school in town.
“He ran for county treasurer and won so we packed up and moved to Sidney when I was 11,” she said.
Johnson said that her father eventually closed their ranch, but not before she got in one more ride.
“He sold his last 50 or 60 cows with calves to a ranch right out west of Sidney and we had to deliver them. So I road all day, before daybreak and up until dusk, to get those cows there,” she said. “I was very tired.”
Johnson attended high school in Sidney, where she also took training classes that allowed her to teach right out of school.
“At that time if we took normal training courses which they had in high school we went right from high school and taught for two years, and we were only 17-years-old!” she said.
She said she taught a mix of every subject and every grade before she met her husband and got married. They stayed in Sidney because Ward worked as the manager at Safeway for 20 years or longer, according to Johnson.
“He built this house that I’ve lived in for 83 years now,” said Johnson. “He passed away in 1971 when he became ill and I was devastated. When the doctor told me I was going to have to be the family supporter I hadn’t worked for years at the time and immediately began to prepare myself for a job.”
Johnson said after Ward’s death she worked for Sidney Flooring for 20 years and liked her job and her employer.
She said one of her favorite memories of working there was when her boss, Ken, hired a new girl to work in the glass department. The girl liked to play tricks on people around the office, but had not played a trick on Johnson until the day she brought in a mysterious box.
“They were all around the back room so I knew something was going to happen,” she said. “She told me she brought me a gift and it was in a shoebox on my desk. I cautiously opened the box and there was a little horny toad inside. They all thought I’d yell and scream - they were all waiting for it. I picked it up and put it on my sweater and asked if I could wear it all day. We lived on a ranch so I knew about them.”
That was the last day the girl every tried to pull a trick over on Johnson.
If being a cowgirl, toad tamer and family supporter wasn’t enough, Johnson can also add world traveler to her list of titles.
“When I had problems with coming to terms with my husband’s death the doctor advised me to think of something I really wanted to do and I wanted to travel,” said Johnson. “My sisters had all traveled and so I went with one of my sisters to Europe a couple times and to Africa.”
Johnson, who is of Danish ancestry, said that her favorite trip was her travels from Denmark to Norway and in Northern Scandinavia.
She said her least favorite trips were to Africa and Egypt.
“There were many times that were apprehensive in Africa and Egypt. It seemed like life was so cheap there but there were three of us, my sister, her husband and I and we were glad we went but I don’t ever need to go back,” she said.
Johnson said that the most dramatic trip she ever took however was when she was in her late 60s and traveling with the pair and they got kicked off the plane at Boston and she had to travel to Egypt by herself until the couple arrived.
She said that although she feels that her traveling days are over she would still love to go to New Zealand.
Through all of her traveling however Johnson said that she is glad she laid up stakes in Sidney, Neb.
“I like Sidney. I’m glad I’m in a small enough town that there are deliveries and you know all your kind neighbors,” she said.
Ada and Ward had three children, two boys and one girl. Johnson said that her five grandchildren and three great grandchildren visit her frequently.
“One granddaughter lives in Colorado and they come at least once a month,” she said. “She brings me books from the library there so I always have new books and plenty of reading material. I still do a tremendous amount of reading. I used to do a lot of stitching and crocheting but I don’t do that so much anymore.”
Johnson said that she attributes her old age to her family’s heritage.
“I guess it’s in my heritage that most of my family has lived long. I have a cousin that is 100-years-old and eight cousins in their 90s. One sister lived to be 99, one 95 and one just turned 95,” she said.
Johnson said that she has lived a very blessed life up to this point.
“It’s been an up and down journey. There have been some very sad times and good times, but you live through it and just be thankful,” she said. “I was always very thankful I had a good family and a wonderful husband and a good boss. Everything went fine that way.”
Johnson said that life goes fast and that you should never take any day for granted.
“It goes pretty fast. In fact the days go so fast that I barely get all the things done that I plan to do,” she said. “I’ve changed friends so many times and I know no one that is my age. I’ve lost most of my friends that were 80 too. Most of my friends are younger now and it’s hard but all my neighbors have been very good to me. You hate to give up your independence but you need help sometimes when you get this old.”
One thing that has not left Johnson with age is her firecracker personality and kind spirit.
“I gave up driving when I was 97. But then again I started when I was 6-and-a-half so all-in-all that was a long enough time for me,” she laughed.