Janet Barbara Johnson
Janet was born in early 1940 to Sarah and Anthony (Bob) Grassi in the Bronx, NY. They had 5 children: Concetta (Connie), Anne, Arlene, Janet and Robert. She had a loving childhood growing up in the Italian neighborhood near Arthur Avenue. She graduated from Christopher Columbus High School in 1957 with a basketball scholarship to NYU. She chose, instead, to go to work for NBC in Manhattan as a secretary. She married in 1960 and moved to Minneapolis. During her 5 year marriage, she had two girls, Jessica and Jennifer. After her divorce, she took in foster teenagers at her home in Kenwood. In 1968, she worked on the Harry Davis campaign for Minneapolis mayor. She was employed at Gingold-Pink Architects in the late 60’s and early 70’s. There she met Dennis Odin Johnson. Their first date involved flying an 8 ft tetrahedral kite on KQRS Kite Day. With Dennis, she helped create The Big Outdoors People in 1972, building geodesic domes and selling alternative energy systems.
In 1975 they moved to North Branch, bought 50 acres and started to build a dome home. They were married in 1975 after which Erik was born. She then ran a day care facility in her home. In 1978, she and Dennis formed Natural Spaces Domes. She was a volunteer member of the Minnesota Environmental Education Board for many years. She took over the position of MEEB director, running this state organization for 18 months.
She was elected to the North Branch school board and served 3 terms from 1984 thru 1990, acting as chair from 1988 thru 1990. She was an active member of the Chisago County DFL party. She was elected chair for many years prior to running for the State Rep seat in her district in 1986, losing by a few votes. When State Senator Randy Peterson was appointed to a judgeship in 1990, she decided to run for his seat, winning by a wide margin (probably because she door knocked over 8000 houses). She was re-elected in 1992 and 1996. Her special concerns involved education and the environment.
In 1997, her life was brightened by Sarah, her first grandchild. There are not enough words to describe their relationship. In mid 1999, twin grandsons were born, sustaining her to the end of her life. She was waiting with great anticipation to share her love with Jennifer’s first child, which arrives after her death.
She passed away on August 21, 1999 at sunrise.