Lois passed away at age 94 on November 20, 2017 at her home in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in her own bed and surrounded by the love and singing of her family. Her son Joel opened a window to the mild November air to let her spirit fly free. After a year of struggling to breathe, she finally “slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God.”
Lois was born on September 15, 1923, to Mildred and George Johnson in Warren, Pennsylvania. The eldest of five children, she grew up surrounded by a loving family, supportive church and community, and the beautiful rolling hills of northwest Pennsylvania. Confirmed at St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church on 126 Water Street, she graduated from Warren High School in 1941. Her stories of childhood were idyllic.
Then came the Depression. Her father lost his dry goods business, contracted TB, then died when she was 17. Pearl Harbor happened when she was 18; the nuclear destruction of Hiroshima, Japan, when she was a newlywed of 21. Little did she know that she would soon be living in Japan and that one of her best friends, Masako Akimoto would be from Hiroshima.
Lois met the love of her life, Paul Setterholm of St. Paul, when she left Warren to study at the Lutheran Bible Institute in Minneapolis. They married on July 26, 1945. Her childhood friend Marty Jacobson, also of Warren, served as matron of honor. Lois and Marty remained very close friends for the rest of their lives.
Paul served as an ensign in the navy just as the war was ending in the Pacific before returning to complete college and seminary. In 1952, Paul and Lois were called by the Augustana Lutheran Synod to be missionaries to Japan where they focused on building bridges between our cultures and sharing the Good News that sustained them both.
They lived in Japan for most of 23 years, raising 4 children and providing them with a view of the world that few are blessed to experience. Lois was a proofreader for a law firm in Minneapolis for more than 10 years. In 1995, she lost Paul after 50 years of marriage. Despite missing him daily, she learned to drive (at age 73), stayed very active at church, took classes (including Greek!) at Luther Seminary, went to concerts, and enjoyed visiting with her grandchildren. An accomplished pianist, Lois had a lifelong love for music ranging from hymns to classical to opera. She was gracious to everyone and insatiably curious, finding the bright side of every situation, and frequently expressing thanks for all her blessings.
Lois leaves behind son Mark, of Eugene OR, son Keith (Tori) of St. Paul, daughter Nan Van Sandt (Steve) of Brownsville OR, son Joel (Carolyn) of Minneapolis, grandsons Nicholas (Kana) Van Sandt, Noah (Hannah Carey) Setterholm, Anders Van Sandt, and granddaughter Abigail Setterholm. She also leaves siblings Russell Johnson and Robert Johnson of Russell, and Nancy Johnson of Warren. Besides Paul, sister Carolyn (Roger) Sorensen preceded her in death in March of this year.
A celebration of Lois’ life will be at Nativity Lutheran Church, 3312 Silver Lake Road, Minneapolis, MN 55418 at 10:30 a.m. Jan. 13, 2018, with visitation at 9:30 and lunch provided following the service. The family prefers memorials to Lutheran World Relief. Checks can be made to Nativity Lutheran Church with Lutheran World Relief in the memo section.