Don Johnson surprised his wife on their 67th wedding anniversary
with a new diamond ring set to replace the wedding ring that
was lost recently.
Family members were present for the combination Christmas-Anniversary
occasion and filmed the surprise as Pat Johnson opened the little
ring box, choked up, then kissed Don. It was a touching moment
captured on video, then uploaded onto YouTube and Facebook by
their daughter Diane Hawkins. Little did they realize it would
go viral around the world with more than two million views.
Then the calls started coming in, Diane said, from all
the major TV networks, the Today Show, Nightline, Fox News, even
German, Japanese, and Hong Kong stations.
Don and Pat reside at Oak CrestDeKalb Area Retirement
Center in the nursing section. Don has Parkinsons disease
and is only able to whisper. He told his daughters to take him
to Becky Becks Jewelry Store when Pat wasnt with
them and there he picked out the diamond set.
It all began in 1951 when she and her date saw Don drive
up in his snazzy 1950 Buick. They took a ride with him, then
two weeks later he called her for a date. The rest is history.
They met in March and were married at the end of December. The
reason they were married so soon, they told me, was because his
National Guard unit was being activated during the Korean War,
and he was soon to ship out to an Army camp in California. Well,
Pat wasnt about to let him go without her, so they drove
Pat Johnson rests her ring hand on Dons at the
Oak Crest health center. (Schrader photo for ShawMedia)Closeup shows Pats new ring set and Dons
to the camp where he remained for a year on active duty, not
having to go overseas.
They drove back to DeKalb and he returned to farming. Pat
was a town girl, the daughter of a Sycamore dentist Dr. Ernest
Miller, and had never spent time on a farm. She said she learned
fast how to collect eggs from the henhouse, but wary of the clucking
hens, she put on a thick coat, hat and gloves, gingerly reaching
into each nest. But she never got pecked.
Next was a surprise for Don: Pat hardly knew how to boil
water, much less cook. But she learned and Don persevered. Proof
that her cooking got better is the fact they are both still alive
and together after all these years. After raising seven children,
three girls and four boys, Pat decided to work outside the home.
She worked as a file clerk at a bank, then at Genoa Business
Forms and at the Hintsche Grain Elevator.
After many years farming, Don also worked for the Illinois
Department of Transportation, first part-time as a snow plow
driver, then full-time for 17 years until retiring in 2002. They
moved to Oak Crest two years ago. Now due to declining health,
both reside in the health center.
Asked what they enjoyed as a pastime, Pat said going to
dances during the Big Band era at places like the
Blue Moon and Casa Mia. They also rented a cabin on Lake Ada
near Brainard, Minnesota each summer for years, their kids often
joining them. Don loved to fish, while Pat was content to stay
on shore with a good book. Then there were a few cruises, the
longest took them to Australia for their 50th wedding anniversary.
One couldnt ask for a better life, working hard yet
taking time for some relaxing activities. And then there are
those seven kids, 14 grandchildren, and 19 great-grandkids to