Bertha Bloomer Johnson

Bertha Bloomer Johnson

Bertha Bloomer Johnson, a public health nurse midwife, died Sept. 23, 2017, after nearly 70 years in Alaska. She was 96.
Bertha was a loving companion to her husband, a devoted mother and true friend. She had a caring heart, formidable intellect, and an adventurous and independent spirit which defied the conventions of her time. She is deeply missed.
Services were held Sept. 29 at the Sitka Pioneers Home Chapel, and Sept. 30 at Chapel by the Lake in Juneau, her home until moving to Sitka with her husband, Martin, in 2013.
Bertha Louise Bloomer was born April 6, 1921, in Port Providence, Pa., the fourth of four children of Howard and Harriet (Smoyer) Bloomer. Her father worked in the steel mills, her mother was a homemaker.
From the time she was a small child she loved to read. A gifted student, she was valedictorian of her graduating class at Phoenixville High School, and at Johns Hopkins University and Simmons College.
When Bertha was 19, her mother passed away, and with little extra money Bertha enrolled in nearby Ursinis College. After two years she was accepted at Johns Hopkins University, where she received an RN certification, and then earned her bachelor’s in nursing at Simmons College.
Seeking adventure, Bertha went on to train in Kentucky with the Frontier Nursing Services as a nurse midwife. Along with learning about midwife techniques she was trained in horsemanship as well – horseback was the mode of transportation in the rural areas she served.
In 1948, seeking new adventure, she accepted a position in the Territory of Alaska as a public health nurse, headquartered in Juneau. She was hired to improve infant mortality throughout the territory. In this role, she traveled across Alaska as a field nurse midwife and also as a nursing supervisor, working with mothers and local midwives in their own Aleut, Eskimo and Indian villages. She wrote and hand-illustrated a library of public health, nursing and midwife booklets and pamphlets that were published by the Territory  and distributed to villages.
She met Martin H. Johnson while stationed in Naknek, Martin’s hometown. They were married Oct. 27, 1951, in Naknek, and they moved to Juneau where Bertha continued her work. She retired when Marty, the first of their three children, was born.
Although retired, Bertha became the unofficial nurse practitioner for Fritz Cove Road. She made house calls and recommended treatments or indicated when the patient should see a doctor.
She also was active in Chapel By the Lake, and was one of the Chapel Ladies, who saw to a large part of the church’s work. She helped at Rainbow Glacier Camp as a counselor, a cook and an activities assistant.
She also enjoyed crafts, knitting and sewing, and made many gifts, costumes and decorations for her family and friends.
When the grandkids started coming, Elizabeth, Ben, Amon, Jenner and Matt, “Grandma Bertha” always had craft projects that she would take with her to share with her grandkids and their friends.
In spring 2014, Bertha and Martin moved into the Sitka Pioneers Home. There she kept up her crafts – among her creations were Christmas bells made from used medicine cups. She also enjoyed many quilting afternoons at the Sitka Lutheran Church, which she and Martin attended while in Sitka.
Bertha was preceded in death by her husband Martin, who died in September 2016; two brothers, Edward and David Bloomer; and sister Elizabeth (Bloomer) Michener.
Bertha is survived by son Marty (Tina) Johnson of Sitka; son Eric (Sue) Johnson, formerly of Anchorage and now of Gresham, Oregon; daughter Susan McFadden of Sitka; grandchildren Elizabeth (Dan) Morrow of Tacoma, Ben Johnson of Gresham, Amon (Megan) Johnson of Portland, Oregon, Jenner (Lakrisha) Johnson of Sitka; and Matthew (Lauren) Johnson of Gresham; and great-grandchildren Jack Polaris Morrow of Tacoma and Olivia Kate Johnson of Portland.
Numerous nieces and nephews, and great-nieces and great-nephews throughout Alaska and the United States also survive.

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