Our mom, Kathy Ray Dietrich (Johanson) was born on November 6 1957 in Flandreau, SD to Bob and Sally Johanson. She was the 2nd of 6 children. She loved animals and farm life from the beginning, even adopting an orphaned raccoon whom she named, Rascal. She also loved to tell the story of how they used to tell the “city kids” they could pet the family’s chicken, who was, in reality, a mean rooster; often when telling this story, she laughed to the point where you couldn’t even understand her. Her family’s nickname for her was ‘Gus’, as she loved to get ‘gussied up’ to go to town.
After she graduated high school in 1976, she went to college at SDSU. Her love of animals continued as she studied animal science. She had been and continued to be a record-breaking athlete, running track and cross country—a sport she would later pass on to her daughters. After she married Jeff, they moved to Ames IA while Jeff continued his studies for his DVM. Justin was born and while she tried working for a bit, she wanted to stay home with her kids. Always resourceful, and always a care-taker, she did in-home daycare with the neighborhood kids, even through Hannah’s birth.
Dad and mom moved their young family to LeSeuer MN after vet school, where Cody and Sadie were born. Mom continued in-home childcare and we loved seeing our friends every day. True to her resourceful nature, she would somehow get herself and all 4 children with a bike and a burley around town and to the community swimming pool. We planted green beans along the driveway, and people loved her fresh baked bread, always gifted with a quarter of butter. She continued running road races, and was giving of both her time and talents. As kids, she would dress up in a Crayola crayon or Minnie Mouse Halloween costume to deliver treats at school.
We lived in Milbank SD for a few years and then moved to Luverne MN. We spent our summers at the pool, and the winters at the ice arena. Her focus was always us children and her faith. Ensuring she kept everyone active, we all delivered papers every morning (we dreaded the Sunday morning ads), and continued to walk or ride bikes in lieu of driving. She rode her bike everywhere, often with a goal of 20-30 miles a day, and whenever possible, with a friend or one of us kids. She took us to church every Sunday, where she found love, community, and lifelong friendships. Her favorite verse for us was Jeremiah 29:11. She loved birthdays and holidays, always making games and events for her kids and nieces/nephews, like Easter scavenger hunts and having a coded system of ribbons and wrapping paper to identify gifts in lieu of name tags; she would reuse the ribbon year after year. She loved playing tricks, one time even wrapping up $100 of pennies for us as a Christmas present.
Her life revolved around us. She did the hard invisible work of motherhood with grace, resolve, and love - making sure we had breakfast together with a devotional every morning and a homemade dinner together every night. She took care to get each of us to our athletic events every weekend, and almost never missed our events. She was “that mom” who ran the cross country course, identifying all the spots where no one else would likely be to cheer us on. As we got older, she worked a variety of jobs in the community. Every single one of them was about taking care of someone else, including 26 years as an EMT for the ambulance. She loved the house she built on her farm, and the menagerie of animals that came with it. She had many dogs, cats, chickens, and cows she named and loved. She was especially tied to the names Gus, Opie, Betty and Ben. In a show of the depth of her compassion, she would spend the time to bottle feed orphaned animals.
She loved being around children, often volunteering us to babysit, which is how Skylar, Sidney and Ren came into our lives and became part of our family. Mom always wanted to be a grandma, and once Jennings, Vidalia, Lyra and Cash came, she was the best grandma. She loved to buy them clothes and toys that reflected her values and her life - usually with farm animals or prints from the natural world. She made elaborate crafts with them out of seemingly nothing, and made the most mundane tasks of finding the eggs or running errands a fun activity for them. While she hated the to-and-from travel, she loved more than anything to be with her family; true to her promise of never being a meddling mother-in-law, she would stay just a day or two, regardless of the distance she traveled to get there.
Our mom loved new experiences, especially if they involved treats. She would savor them, somehow making a box of cookies or a chocolate bar last weeks or months if it was special. Cody always kept a few Mike’s hard lemonades in his fridge, just for her. She was always taking care of others, but did enjoy being pampered (though never wanting to be fussed over). She loved seeing her friends for tea and Bible study, taking weekend trips to new places with her girlfriends (fulfilling her wish to go ziplining), and her weekly trip to Starbucks for a Frappuccino and a walk through the Costco snack aisle. Our mom gave. She loved. She savored the simple things in life. And in her presence, others were encouraged and pushed to do the same.
Kathy is survived by her husband, Jeff; her children Justin (Bonnie) Dietrich of Wailuku, HI, Hannah (Nate) Howard of Robbinsdale MN, Cody Dietrich of Beaver Creek, MN and Sadie Dietrich (John Singleton) of Minneapolis, MN; her grandchildren Jennings Dietrich, Vidalia Dietrich, Lyra Singleton and Cash Dietrich; and siblings Randy (Deb) Johanson of Flandreau, SD, Brett (Kim) Johanson of Flandreau, SD, and Marla (Gary) Lang of Sioux Falls, SD and many, many other beloved friends and family.
She was preceded in death by her parents; and siblings Craig Johanson and Debra Johanson.