Cover photo for Martha Elizabeth Johnson's Obituary
Martha Elizabeth Johnson Profile Photo

Martha Elizabeth Johnson

July 6, 1934 — May 16, 2023

Madison

Martha Elizabeth Johnson

 

It is with bittersweet grief and profound gratitude that the Johnson, McConnell, and Berg families announce the passing of our much-loved and revered family matriarch, Martha Elizabeth Johnson. Fondly remembered as the ‘first lady of Badger hockey,’ Martha was the glue of the Johnson family. She passed away peacefully on May 16, 2023, at the age of 88 in Madison, WI.

 

Martha was born on July 6, 1934, in Edina, Minnesota to Alvin Wyatt and Agnes Newhouse. She sourced immense pride from her childhood community and embraced all things Minnesota in her upbringing (including ice skating and holding her own in a pond hockey game against the boys, roots that would be fitting for her as an adult as she raised a family of her own). Martha was a member of the second graduating class from Edina High School in 1952, where she was active in dance, yearbook, and was the captain of the cheer team. She went on to the University of Minnesota where she was a cheer leader and a member of Gamma Phi Beta Sorority. It was at the University of Minnesota where she met the love of her life, Bob Johnson. A precursor of what was to come, Martha infamously sat front row during Bob’s collegiate hockey playing career and let her allegiances be known as she enthusiastically cheered on her new love.

 

Martha and Bob were married on December 28, 1953 and spent their first year of marriage in Japan (where Bob was stationed during the Korean War). The chapters of Martha and “Badger” Bob’s incredible love story are filled with 37 years of family (they raised 5 wonderful children together), friends, and improbable experiences and successes that spanned all corners of the world. Ice hockey was the platform for their storied journey together and was much more than a game to Martha and Bob. Hockey was their livelihood, their sense of community, and the sport gave so many blessings to their family. They shared the trail from Minneapolis to Tokyo, Colorado, Wisconsin, Calgary, Colorado again and Pittsburgh during their time together.

 

Martha was a loving wife and devoted mother as Bob ascended to the highest coaching ranks of the sport. Bob nurtured his hockey teams and Martha nurtured the family, learning the two responsibilities were not hugely different. A reporter noted after talking with Bob and Martha that the ‘two struck the same pose, shared the same thoughts. She talked about her family; he talked about a hockey team, but they spoke with identical passion, pride and hope.” An energetic force, Martha was ‘famous in her own right,” and was not a background figure in the shadows of Bob’s success. Ahead of her time in many ways, she was an outgoing and strong-willed equal to Bob. It was Martha who taught her children and many of her grandchildren to skate. It was Martha who fostered a community of UW Hockey supporters and close friends that helped grow the program to one of the best in the country (Martha’s “Badger Hockey Ladies Support Group,” a close-knit community of female UW Hockey supporters including hockey parents, coaches’ wives, and boosters continues to meet monthly to this day, 50 years later). It was Martha, Bob’s ‘feisty wife,’ that would speak to the media about her and Bob’s intention to move from college coaching to the NHL. It was Martha who suggested the Pittsburgh Penguins adopt their first ever mascot (a mascot they still use today). ''Martha`s seen so many hockey games,” Bob would say, “Washington tried to hire her as a scout.”

 

Hockey games were not the same without Martha. “If a hockey hall of fame existed for fans alone, no one would be better qualified than Martha Johnson, she adds real pizzazz to the game.” Whether it was ringing her cowbell as she cheered the Badgers onto 3 national Championships at the Colosseum during Bob’s tenure at Wisconsin, traveling abroad with Team USA at numerous international competitions including the 1976 Olympics in Austria, or becoming a fan favorite with NHL fans in Calgary and Pittsburgh (winning the Stanley Cup the year before Bob died in 1991).

 

After Bob’s death, Martha settled in Colorado Springs, CO, Scottsdale, AZ, and San Diego, CA, and spent the last 6 years back in Madison, WI (where she would enjoy cheering on the UW Badger Women’s hockey team coached by her son, Mark). When not at a rink, Martha enjoyed knitting and playing bridge and golf. Family was at the core of who Martha was and her love for her family was unwavering. She took immense pride in her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, often boasting about their accomplishments as a great source of joy. Martha will fondly be remembered as a wonderful and dedicated wife, mother, ‘Nana,’ and ‘great-Nana.’ Her vibrant spirit and zest for life continue to live on in her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren - all of whom are blessed and thankful to have had Martha Johnson as such an important person in their lives.

 

Martha is survived by her children, Sandi McConnell (Tim), Julie Johnson-Berg (Ralph), Mark Johnson (Leslie), Peter Johnson (Sally); 11 grandchildren, Scott McConnell (Jessie), Bobby McConnell (Kristi), Brian McConnell (Kelli), Doug Johnson (Kate), Chris Johnson (Angie), Patrick Johnson (Hannah), Mikayla Bunz (Jake), Megan Wilson (Aaron), Craig Johnson (Nikki), Keith Johnson (Amanda), Erik Johnson (Jo); and 19 great-grandchildren, Mason, Berkley and Quinn McConnell, Bode, Baker and Hayes McConnell, Brady and Jordy McConnell, Nash and Casey Johnson, Hadley, Lyla, and Marlie Johnson, Oliver Johnson, Brooks Bunz, Elliot and Lily Johnson, Einar and Emmy Johnson. Martha was preceded in death by her loving husband, Bob, her beloved daughter Diane and sister Sara Fontaine.

 

A Celebration of Life Service will be held at the FITCHBURG location of Blackhawk Church,

5935 Astor Drive, Fitchburg, WI 53711 at 12 noon on Monday, June 5th, 2023 followed by a light luncheon at the church. A visitation will take place prior to the service from 11-12.

 

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to:

 

Community Living Connections , Inc. 6515 Watts Rd. Suite 200 Madison, WI 53719

Agape Ranch WI 7978 Coray Lane, Verona, WI 53593

Bob Johnson Hockey School, 501(c)(3) 321 E Lionshead Circle, Vail, CO 81657

 

Please share your memories at www.cressfuneralservice.com

Cress Center

6021 University Ave. Madison

(608) 238-8406

 

 

 

 

Past Services

Visitation

Monday, June 5, 2023

11:00am - 12:00 pm (Central time)

Blackhawk Church Fitchburg

5935 Astor Dr., Fitchburg, WI 53711

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Celebration of Life

Monday, June 5, 2023

Starts at 12:00 pm (Central time)

Blackhawk Church Fitchburg

5935 Astor Dr., Fitchburg, WI 53711

Get Directions

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

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