Betty Jo Johns, age 88 died peacefully on Oct. 23, 2020, at Concordia Life Plan Community in Oklahoma City, OK, following a brief illness.
She was born May 1, 1932 in Manzanola, CO; the only child born to Galen and Edna Farris Baker. Betty Jo was raised in Manzanola, CO, and Friend, KS, before graduating from Garden City High School, Garden City KS, in 1949. She received her bachelor’s degree from McPherson College (KS) in 1954, and her master’s degree from the University of Northern Colorado in 1964.
She married Joseph H. Johns in 1954, and celebrated fifty-six years together prior to his passing in 2010. Betty Jo is preceded in death by her mother, Edna Hopkins, her father, Galen Baker, and her stepfather, Ben Hopkins. She is survived by her sons, Joel, of Edgerton, KS, and Brock, of Oklahoma City, OK, and spouses Julie and Tammy, respectively. She has three grandchildren: Tyler, Paige, and Claire.
Betty Jo was a lifelong fitness enthusiast, an advocate for women’s athletic competition, and a pioneer in the establishment of women’s sports in western Kansas. She was instrumental in establishing the girl’s basketball and volleyball programs at Dighton (KS) High School between 1955-1958, and the women’s volleyball, basketball, tennis, and softball programs at Garden City Community College. She commemorated significant birthday milestones in her lifetime through athletic achievements. At age 40, she played 40 sets of tennis. When she turned 45, Betty Jo bicycled 45 miles. On her 50th birthday, she ran 50 kilometers. During Betty Jo’s 55th birthday, she played 55 games of racquetball, and at age 60, she walked 60 kilometers. Betty Jo participated in the Bicycle Across Kansas event for several years and truly enjoyed every windy, dusty mile she peddled with her friends. She is famous for distributing both peppernuts during the holidays and peanut butter krispie treats to the community, college faculty and her students.
In 2006, she was honored by her Alma Mater through induction into the McPherson College Athletic Hall of Fame following a 26 year teaching, coaching, and athletic career which included pitching for five state championship slow-pitch softball teams, participating in five national slow-pitch tournaments, and her contribution to the establishment of women’s sports at Garden City Community College In 2007, she was similarly inducted into the Garden City Community College Athletic Hall of Fame for her dedication to the furtherance of women’s athletic competition.
Following retirement, Betty Jo enjoyed volunteering at the Finney County Historical Society and the Garden City Travel Plaza, in addition to writing and painting.
Betty Jo’s priorities were simple: her family, her friends, and her students, many whom became her extended family and all of whom she insisted call her Betty Jo. Until her health prevented it, she maintained a close relationship with her college roommates from Arnold Hall at McPherson College. In the end, she said her preferred title was mom and grandma.
Visitation is to be held on Thursday, Oct. 29, from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday, Oct. 30 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Garnand Funeral Home in Garden City, KS. A graveside service and burial will be held on Friday, October 30, at 1:30 p.m., at the Prairie View Church of the Brethren Cemetery in Friend, KS. The family suggests memorials given to the Garden City Community College Endowment Association in care of the funeral home. Condolences may be given at garnandfuneralhomes.com.
Published on October 27, 2020