|Janet Barbara Johnson
born in early 1940 to Sarah and Anthony (Bob) Grassi in
the Bronx, NY. They had 5 children: Concetta (Connie),
Anne, Arlene, Janet and Robert. She had a loving
childhood growing up in the Italian neighborhood near
Arthur Avenue. She graduated from Christopher Columbus
High School in 1957 with a basketball scholarship to NYU.
She chose, instead, to go to work for NBC in Manhattan as
a secretary. She married in 1960
and moved to Minneapolis. During her 5 year marriage, she had two girls, Jessica and Jennifer. After her divorce, she
took in foster teenagers at her home in Kenwood. In 1968,
she worked on the Harry Davis campaign for Minneapolis
mayor. She was employed at Gingold-Pink Architects in the
late 60s and early 70s. There she met Dennis
Odin Johnson. Their first date involved flying an 8 ft
tetrahedral kite on KQRS Kite Day. With Dennis, she
helped create The Big Outdoors People in 1972, building
geodesic domes and selling alternative energy systems.
In 1975 they
moved to North Branch, bought 50 acres and started to
build a dome home. They were married in 1975 after which Erik
was born. She then ran a day care
facility in her home. In 1978, she and Dennis formed
Natural Spaces Domes. She was a volunteer member of the
Minnesota Environmental Education Board for many years.
She took over the position of MEEB director, running this
state organization for 18 months.
She was elected
to the North Branch school board and served 3 terms from
1984 thru 1990, acting as chair from 1988 thru 1990. She
was an active member of the Chisago County DFL party. She
was elected chair for many years prior to running for the
State Rep seat in her district in 1986, losing by a few
votes. When State Senator Randy Peterson was appointed to
a judgeship in 1990, she decided to run for his seat,
winning by a wide margin (probably because she door
knocked over 8000 houses). She was re-elected in 1992 and
1996. Her special concerns involved education and the
In 1997, her life was brightened by Sarah, her first
grandchild. There are not enough words to describe their
relationship. In mid 1999, twin grandsons
were born, sustaining her to the end of her life. She was
waiting with great anticipation to share her love with
Jennifers first child, which arrives after her death.
She passed away
on August 21, 1999 at sunrise.