Catherine Jean Johnson, 73, passed away on Thursday, May 28, 2020 in her precious “Sweet House” on Covered Bridge Road in Unadilla.
She was born on Aug. 2, 1946 in Deposit, the daughter of William and Grace (Wagner) Gifford. She graduated from Deposit Central School in 1964 and completed three years at Brockport State University, majoring in physical education.
Cathy married her forever love, David Johnson, on June 24, 1967 in Deposit. They shared 52 years together, most of it farming in Unadilla and raising their seven children. She was instrumental in the development of the “Joleanna Holsteins” registered herd and the formation of “Covered Bridge Farm Market,” both of which are now carried on by two of her sons and their families.
In her gardens, Cathy cultivated endless flowers, vegetables, and memories. She had an appreciation for the fertile ground and beauty that swept the landscape with each changing season as she tilled the soil, sowed the seeds, pulled the weeds, and harvested a bounty of produce. She took pride in her well-tended blooms in her flowerbeds, and the freezers and jars full of vegetables and preserves that resulted from her family’s efforts. We know she will enjoy the peace and fulfillment of praying in God’s gardens. With each turn of the plow and bouquet on the kitchen table, we will remember her.
Cathy’s kitchen was the heart of her home. Family meals were important to her and always prepared with homegrown ingredients. It was around the supper table that “thanks” were offered for the blessings of farm, family and the day’s events were recapped or future plans discussed.
She often invited family and friends for dinner, coffee, or pie. Cathy and Dave (Grammie and Gramps) hosted larger holiday celebrations with their seven children, spouses, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren in their “gathering room,” an addition to their home that comfortably seats 50 people. As of the year 2019, Thanksgiving dinner attendance was over 40.
She loved cooking for large groups and was devoted to organizing her church family work bees prior to fundraising dinners. Her cooking brought nourishment, fellowship and fun and truly was what she saw as a way she could help bring people together.
As she called herself, a “Red Barn Woman,” a great deal of Cathy’s pride lived in the barns at Joleanna Holsteins. Her love for the registered Holstein cow was in her blood and she passed that love down to her children. Whether they were at a county fair, state fair, a national show, or just practicing in circles around the driveway, Cathy was there, being their number one fan, the encouraging coach, and keen judge. There is no doubt she loved the Holstein cow, but even greater was her pride in seeing her children carry on that tradition.
Cathy will be remembered by many as a staunch supporter of agriculture and the dairy industry. For over 40 years, she annually hosted many kindergarten classes to her farm stand to educate them about vegetables, their value, and how they grow. She also was the proud mother of three Delaware County Dairy Princesses and one New York State Dairy Princess.
Cathy is survived by her husband, Dave; mother, Grace Gifford of Oneonta; and seven children and their families: Shari Johnson-Ploutz (Fred), Justin, Megan, Gialina, and Adriana of Oneonta; Kelli Morgan (Bill), Jacob, Rachel, and Jessica of Union Springs; Marc Johnson (Nikki), Dalton, Dakota, Dani, and Dalani of Guilford; Luke Johnson (Janette), Braeden and Xander of Unadilla; Joshua Johnson (Karli), Cole, Owen, and Willa of Otego; Derek Johnson (Erin), Logan, Bailey, and Sadie of Unadilla; and Kathryn Hitt (Diesel), Lane, Emma, Tori, and Levi of Adams Center.
Also surviving are two sisters, Judith Robertson (Richard) of Trumansburg, Patricia Gifford of Groton, and a brother, Clayton Gifford (Sandra) of Deposit.
Several nieces and nephews also survive.
She was predeceased by her father and brother, Richard Gifford of Deposit.
In addition to being survived by 23 loving grandchildren (listed above), Catherine leaves four great-grandchildren. She greatly enjoyed watching all of them play sports, dance, perform musicals, show registered Holsteins and work alongside their parents on their own farms.
The Johnson family would like to convey special gratitude to the oncology department at Bassett Healthcare, Helios Care of Oneonta, and her beloved church family for their love and compassion during the last nine months. It has been because of your expert care and support that Cathy was able to continue to host family holidays and church functions during her illness.
Calling hours will be private, as will burial at Evergreen Hill Cemetery, Unadilla in the Johnson Family Plot, officiated by Rev. Lynn Shepard.
Memorial donations in Cathy’s name may be sent to the Unadilla First Presbyterian Church, Box Z, Unadilla, NY 13849 to fund the construction of a stained glass window in her honor, where she was a devoted member and spent many hours preparing food for church fundraising dinners.
A celebration of Cathy’s life and window dedication will be held at the First Presbyterian Church at a later date, with the Rev. Paul E.C. Hamilton officiating.
Share condolences and memories with the family online at www.landersfh.com. Arrangements are under the direction of C.H. Landers Funeral Chapel, Sidney.