Catherine Margaret Campion Johnson
December 21, 1925 to June 3, 2020
Catherine (or “Kitty,” as she was affectionately known) was never capable of being anything other than herself. She was a math whiz, grammar fiend, crossword champion, and a wonderful mother and grandmother. She had the uncanny ability of conveying any number of feelings with just one look, and even towards the end of her life, several family members were on the receiving end of one of her loving eye-rolls. Her quiet strength was the cornerstone of her large, rambunctious Irish family, and her absence will be sorely felt.
Kitty was born in Wilmington, CA to James Thomas Campion and Anastasia (Stasia) Phelan of Ireland. She attended St. Anthony’s High School in Long Beach, and graduated from Immaculate College in Hollywood in 1947. Always a stellar student, Kitty was a member of the Delta Epsilon Sigma national scholastic honor society.
Kitty was introduced to Joseph Johnson through mutual friends who imagined that their shared love of dancing would make them a good match. Little did their friends know that they would be engaged two weeks later. Joe had to leave for Alaska on a job for Shell Oil, so while he was away, Kitty planned the wedding. They married as soon as he returned, on October 3, 1953.
Joe and Kitty were married for 50 years, and true to the night they met, they could always be found dancing—proper dance floor not required. Kitty loved her Irish heritage, so even Irish dancing was a tradition in their home. (If pressed, just about every one of her family members can do the jig.) Joe and Kitty moved to Bakersfield in 1956 when Joe was transferred through his job at Shell Oil; Kitty began teaching math at Bakersfield College shortly thereafter, and remained there for 28 years until her retirement in 1983. They had a beautiful life together in Bakersfield with their four children. Joe passed away the day after their 50th wedding anniversary, and the family believes that he waited to celebrate that incredible milestone before leaving this earth.
Kitty was an immensely intelligent woman and an active member of her community. She received her masters degree from CSUB, volunteered at the Assistance League of Bakersfield, and was a member of the Bakersfield Country Club for almost sixty years, where she could frequently be found playing bridge.
Kitty died peacefully at home. She leaves behind daughter Bridget Vehlewald of Bakersfield (husband, Dan, preceded Kitty in death) and their children Paige and Nick; son, Matt of Palm Desert (wife, Linda) and their children Christina, Matthew (wife, Megan) and Michael; son, Jim of Bakersfield and his son Shamus; son, Joe of Katy, Texas (wife, Teresa) and their children Adam and Ian. In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to your favorite charity.
Kitty’s memorial mass is planned for 11:00am on Monday, July 6, 2020 at Saint Catherine of Alexandria Catholic Church on Catalina Island. Spending the Fourth of July on Catalina Island is the Johnson family’s much-loved yearly tradition, which will be celebrating its 50th year this year. While the trip will be tremendously bittersweet without Kitty, we feel this is the perfect time and place to celebrate such an amazing wife, mother, grandmother, and friend. You can be certain that someone will attempt the jig in her honor, and we all know the look she would likely give us for trying.