On May 4, 2022, Karen Jeanne Johnson peacefully passed away, surrounded by her loved ones, and into the loving arms of our Lord Jesus Christ. May 4th will forever be Karen’s “Glory Day.”

Karen was born on January 5, 1952 to Jack and Jeannie Chamberlain. She was the oldest of four children and she let her brothers know who was in charge of the Chamberlain siblings. Over the years we would hear countless stories of the summertime fun Mom had with her brothers, friends and visiting cousins from Oregon. Stories that involved mudball fights, boys vs. girls, (the girls would put rocks in their mudballs), riding horses, playing in the creek, and wild cucumber fights were just a few of their fun times.

Karen graduated in 1970 from Fortuna Union High School, and in 1972 married Ralph Edward Johnson. They were to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary this summer.

Karen fought a hard battle against metastatic breast cancer. She was in remission for four years until the cancer returned with a vengeance. When she went through her first set of chemo treatments, she never missed a day of work. Karen loved her work. She was the director of Great Beginnings Preschool, and taught kindergarten as well. The love she had for her students and the preschool was well known. She loved her kids, and she made sure that her students were not aware of her being sick and going through chemo treatments. Her “littles” came first, and she said they helped her fight and get through chemo and radiation treatments.

Karen began working for New Life Christian School in 1998 and was a pillar in the NLCS community. She wore many “hats” over the years as teacher, principal, board member/president, and fundraising chairperson. The dedication she had for NLCS was unprecedented. That dedication flowed down to her students and the impact she had on so many lives. Great Beginnings Preschool was her creation and her “baby” as she would say, and she worked tireless hours along with her staff to create an amazing preschool/kindergarten program.

Karen was also a rancher and a rancher’s wife. She, Ralph, and their son Jacob raise beef cattle as JKR Ranch and manage the Kinsey Ranch in Southern Humboldt. Karen was a hard worker and loved living on the ranch. She would commute from Benbow to Fortuna to teach during the school year and then work tirelessly on her days off, weekends and during the summer on the ranch. Karen and Ralph always put in a huge garden and in late summer and early fall Karen was canning and freezing the harvest. And cook!! Karen was an amazing cook and took great pride in her cooking. Hospitality was one of her many gifts. She loved having guests at the ranch, sitting on the patio sipping iced tea and admiring her beautiful garden.

Karen was preceded in death by her parents Jack and Jeanne Chamberlain.

She is survived by her husband, Ralph Johnson, her children Kay (Lou) Challoner, Jacob (Tara) Johnson, grandchildren, Melissa (Rusty) Calkins, Sage, Savanah and Sydney Johnson, great grandchildren Julia & Gavin Calkins. Siblings, Brad (Nancy) Chamberlain, Rod (Debbie) Chamberlain & Jay Chamberlain, brother-in-law Robert Johnson (Mary) as well as many nieces, nephews, and cousins.

This obituary could go on for miles to share what an amazing, beautiful, talented, and Godly woman she was. The family will be holding a memorial to honor Karen on Saturday, June 11th at 1 p.m. The memorial will be located at The Journey Church, 95 Belleview, Rio Del. Longtime friend and Pastor, Bob Hapgood, will be helping the family honor Karen and providing the message.

We miss our mom beyond measure. We have wanted to pick up the phone and call her so many times, but we realize we cannot do that right now; but we will see her again someday. Our family is a family of faith, and our mom was such a strong, loving Christian woman. She wanted everyone to have a personal relationship with Christ. If anyone should have questions about how to know Christ, call or visit a local church or check out a church’s website. Since Covid, so many churches have online services.

Our family would like to thank the staff at Providence Oncology. Our mom thought so highly of the nursing staff in the office and infusion center. She was forever grateful for each one of you.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Great Beginnings Preschool c/o New Life Christian School, P.O. Box 404, Fortuna, CA 95540.


The obituary above was submitted by Karen Johnson’s loved ones. The Lost Coast Outpost runs obituaries of Humboldt County residents at no charge. See guidelines here. Email news@lostcoastoutpost.com.