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Johan Johanson seated, his sons left to right in the back - Walter, Eric and Bertram.

Photo courtesy of the Adventist Heritage Centre, South Pacific Division. 

Johanson, Walter Omer (1891–1934)

By Shirley Tarburton

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Shirley Tarburton, M.Litt. (Distinction) (University of New England, Armidale, New South Wales, Australia) retired in 2008 after 40 years teaching church-school (mainly high school but including eight years at university). An Australian, she has taught in four mission fields, Australia, and New Zealand. She has authored five books and co-authored one on church history, biography and family history, as well as several magazine articles. She is married to Dr. Michael Tarburton with two adult children and four grandchildren.

 

First Published: January 29, 2020

Walter Johanson worked for the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) Church for thirty years, working in finance and management. The last nine years of his working life were spent as the manager of the Signs Publishing Company in Warburton, Victoria, Australia.

Birth and Early Years

Walter was the eldest son and second child of Johan Peter Marius Johanson (1860-1928) and his wife, Faith Omer (1866-1949). He was born in Launceston, Tasmania on May 19, 18911. His parents were deeply interested in spiritual things and studying the Bible and the following year, joined the Seventh-day Adventist church.2 Soon afterwards they moved to Melbourne to attend the St Kilda Bible School for a year3 then in 1894 moved to Western Australia to pioneer the distribution of SDA literature to awaken interest in the distinctive message of the Church in that colony.4

After their return to Melbourne in 1899 for Mr. Johanson to be the colporteur field agent (publishing director) of the Central Conference5 (after its division, the Victorian Conference6) Walter attended the SDA church school at North Fitzroy7 with his older sister, Mabel and younger sister, Gretta.

There were six children in the Johanson family. The eldest was Mabel Faith Muriel who was born in Lambeth, London on December 6, 1888.8 In 1912 she married Harry C. Stacey, (later, Pastor), and she died November 28, 1974 in Cooranbong, NSW.9 Gretta Barbara Faith was born July 1, 1892 in Launceston, Tasmania.10 In 1925 she married Roy William Barham,11 and she died in Cooranbong, NSW on November 5, 1975.12 Eric John was born May 31, 1899 in Melbourne.13 He married Nettie Roberta Hare in 1919 in Shanghai, China, and died in Cooranbong, NSW on November 13, 1999.14 Bertram Olaff was also born in Melbourne, on February 6, 1902.15 In 1924 he married Olive Doris Camp,16 and on October 17, 1982, he died at Cooranbong, NSW.17 The youngest child was Thelma Lizzie Edith Grace, who was born at Warburton, Victoria, in June 29, 1907.18 In 1941 she married Pastor Edward Christian Rosendahl, and on August 20, 1997, she died in Toronto Private Hospital, NSW.19

Career

When he was fourteen years of age, Walter started working at the Echo Publishing Company, with which his father was connected, and commenced learning the skills utilised in that business.20 The following year, when the Signs Publishing Company commenced in Warburton, the Johansons moved there and Walter continued learning all he could.21 With further study, he became a certified accountant, and later, a member of the Institute of Cost Accountants.22 When he was twenty-one he became the accountant at the Signs Publishing Company and held that position for two years, 1913-1915.23

During that time, on June 3, 1914, he married Susan May Gadsden in her parents’ home in Melbourne.24 There were five children born to the marriage. Merele Maioma was born March 13, 1915 in Warburton,25 married Oliver Collin Ferris in Warburton on December 30, 1945,26 and died October 11, 2016 at Nunawading, Victoria.27 Beryl Betsey, born September 22, 1917 in Sydney, married (Pastor) Sidney Arthur Stocken in Warburton on December 19, 1943, and died October 9, 2015 at Wahroonga, NSW.28 Keith Walter Marius, born July 25, 1919 at Wahroonga, married Joan Eleanor Onion on July 11, 1943 and died in Warburton September 19, 2011.29 Phyllis May, born July 20, 1925 in Sydney,30 married Mervyn Keith Frauenfelder in Warburton on January 3, 1957. Bruce John, born June 17, 1927 in Sydney,31 married Daisy Joan Beecroft in Auburn, Victoria on September 2, 1948.32

Early in 1915 Walter was transferred to Sydney to be an accountant at the Australian Union Conference (AUC). From 1916 to 1918, he was the Treasurer at the AUC, with the responsibility of Auditor being added in 1917, and that of Statistician being added in 1918.33 In 1923 he was made Secretary of the Australasian Conference Association Limited and was appointed to be General Secretary of the Sanitarium Health Food Department at the AUC.34 (‘Secretary’ was the title given the Director of these two entities.)

In 1926 he became the Manager of the Signs Publishing Company in Warburton, succeeding his father, and held this position until the time of his premature death.35 During these years he was also a member of a number of committees and was esteemed as being a loyal and efficient leader.36 He was also highly respected by secular businessmen with whom he dealt, and was looked upon as a ‘noble gentleman.’37

Illness and Death

Early in 1934 persistent illness forced Walter Johanson to step down from active duties. It was hoped that a period of care in the Sydney Sanitarium would restore him to health, but it was not to be and he died December 5, 1934. During his time of illness he continued to bear faithful witness to God’s care. His obituary noted,

Through his long and painful illness our late beloved brother was constantly praising his heavenly Father for His goodness and sustaining grace. He was never heard to complain about his affliction, and his patience and courage in the Lord were a constant inspiration to those who visited him. . . 38

Susan never re-married, raising her young family in Warburton and providing a gathering-place for other young people at her cottage on the hill until she moved into Mountain View Retirement Home in Warburton. She died in the nursing home on April 22, 1987.39

Sources

“A Tribute.” Australasian Record, January 7, 1935.

Anderson, O. K. “Barham.” Australasian Record, February 9, 1976.

Barry Wright and Bob Saunders. “Stocken, Beryl Betsy (nee Johanson).”

Australasian Record, December 5, 2015.

British Births, Mabel F M Johanson. 1Q 1889 Lambeth 1d 437.

Coombe, L. C. “Stacey.” Australasian Record, January 20, 1975.

Grosser, Bert, Bert Piez, “Johanson, Pastor Eric John.” Australasian Record, January 22, 2000.

Hare, R. E. “Mrs Faith Johanson.” Australasian Record, November 14, 1949.

Johanson, E. J. “Ferris-Johanson.” Australasian Record, February 25, 1946.

“Johanson-Camp.” Australasian Record, September 29, 1924.

Laws, L. J. “Johanson.” Australasian Record, December 18, 1982.

“Life-Sketch of Mrs Susan Johanson.” Australasian Record, June 20, 1987.

Masters, Fairley. “Early Days of the Message in New Zealand and Australia.” Australasian Record, July 29, 1935.

Needham, A. C. “Rosendahl, Thelma Edith Grace (nee Johanson).” Australasian Record, October 4, 1997.

Parr, R. H. “Life Sketch of Mrs Susan Johanson.” Australasian Record, June 20, 1987.

Rudge, W. E. “Johanson-Beecroft.” Australasian Record, November 29, 1948.

Snow, C. M. “Barham-Johanson.” Australasian Record, February 22, 1926.

Stewart, A. G. “Walter Omer Johanson.” Australasian Record, January 7, 1935.

Tasmanian Births, Faith Johnson (sic) Launceston, RGD22/1/73, no. 1020/1892. https://linctas.ent.sirsidynix.net.au/client/en_AU/names/search/detailnonmodal/ent:$002f$002fNAME_INDEXES$002f0$002fNAME_INDEXES:1045666/one?qu=Faith&qu=Johnson&qf=PUBDATE%09Year%091892-1892%091892-1892.

Tasmanian Births, Walter Omer Johanson, Launceston, RGD33/1/71 no. 373/1891. https://linctas.ent.sirsidynix.net.au/client/en_AU/names/search/detailnonmodal/ent:$002f$002fNAME_INDEXES$002f0$002fNAME_INDEXES:938975/one?qu=Walter&qu=Johanson&qf=NI_INDEX%09Record+type%09Births%09Births&qf=PUBDATE%09Year%091884-1891%091884-1891&qf=NI_NAME_FACET%09Name%09Johanson%2C+Walter+Omer%09Johanson%2C+Walter+Omer.

“The Victorian Conference President’s Report.” Australasian Record, July 17, 1901.

“Union Conference Proceedings.” Australasian Record, July 12, 1899.

Victorian Births, Bertram Olaff Johanson, North Fitzroy, 2853/1902. https://online.justice.vic.gov.au/bdm/indexsearch.doj.

Victorian Births, Eric John Johanson, Elsternwick, no. 18261/1899, https://online.justice.vic.gov.au/bdm/indexsearch.doj.

Victorian Births, Thelma Lizzie Edith Grace Johanson, A’adale, 15411/1907, https://online.justice.vic.gov.au/bdm/indexsearch.doj.

Victorian births, Morele Maioma Johnson, Warburton, 17313/1915, https://online.justice.vic.gov.au/bdm/indexsearch.doj.

Walter Omer Johanson, Worker’s Biographical Record. South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives. Folder: “Johanson, Walter Omer.” Document: “Worker’s Biographical Record.”

Notes

  1. Tasmanian Births, Walter Omer Johanson, Launceston, RGD33/1/71 no. 373/189, https://linctas.ent.sirsidynix.net.au/client/en_AU/names/search/detailnonmodal/ent:$002f$002fNAME_INDEXES$002f0$002fNAME_INDEXES:938975/one?qu=Walter&qu=Johanson&qf=NI_INDEX%09Record+type%09Births%09Births&qf=PUBDATE%09Year%091884-1891%091884-1891&qf=NI_NAME_FACET%09Name%09Johanson%2C+Walter+Omer%09Johanson%2C+Walter+Omer

  2. A. G. Stewart, “Walter Omer Johanson,” Australasian Record, January 7, 1935, 7.

  3. R. E. Hare, “Mrs Faith Johanson,” Australasian Record, November 14, 1949, 6-7.

  4. Fairley Masters, “Early Days of the Message in New Zealand and Australia,” Australasian Record, July 29, 1935, 8.

  5. “Union Conference Proceedings,” Australasian Record, July 12, 1899, 7.

  6. “The Victorian Conference President’s Report,” Australasian Record, July 17, 1901, 14.

  7. A. G. Stewart, 7.

  8. British Births, Mabel F M Johanson 1Q 1889 Lambeth 1d 437, https://www.freebmd.org.uk/cgi/search.pl

  9. L. C. Coombe, “Stacey,” Australasian Record, January 20, 1975, 14.

  10. Tasmanian Births, Faith Johnson (sic) Launceston, RGD22/1/73 no 1020/1892, https://linctas.ent.sirsidynix.net.au/client/en_AU/names/search/detailnonmodal/ent:$002f$002fNAME_INDEXES$002f0$002fNAME_INDEXES:1045666/one?qu=Faith&qu=Johnson&qf=PUBDATE%09Year%091892-1892%091892-1892

  11. C. M. Snow, “Barham-Johanson,” Australasian Record, February 22, 1926, 7.

  12. O. K. Anderson, “Barham,” Australasian Record, February 9, 1976, 15.

  13. Victorian Births, Eric John Johanson, Elsternwick, no. 18261/1899, https://online.justice.vic.gov.au/bdm/indexsearch.doj

  14. Bert Grosser, Bert Piez, “Johanson, Pastor Eric John,” Australasian Record, January 22, 2000, 14.

  15. Victorian Births, Bertram Olaff Johanson, North Fitzroy, 2853/1902, https://online.justice.vic.gov.au/bdm/indexsearch.doj

  16. “Johanson-Camp,” Australasian Record, September 29, 1924, 7.

  17. L. J. Laws, “Johanson,” Australasian Record, December 18, 1982, 14.

  18. Needham, “Rosendahl, Thelma Edith Grace (nee Johanson),” Australasian Record, October 4, 1997, 14; Victorian Births, Thelma Lizzie Edith Grace Johanson, A’adale, 15411/1907

  19. Needham, 14.

  20. Stewart, 7.

  21. Ibid.

  22. Ibid.

  23. Ibid.

  24. R. H. Parr, “Life Sketch of Mrs Susan Johanson,” Australasian Record, June 20, 1987, 14.

  25. Victorian births, Morele Maioma Johnson, Warburton, 17313/1915, https://online.justice.vic.gov.au/bdm/indexsearch.doj

  26. E. J. Johanson, “Ferris-Johanson,” Australasian Record, February 25, 1946, 7.

  27. Personal knowledge of the author. The author attended her funeral.

  28. Barry Wright and Bob Saunders, “Stocken, Beryl Betsy (nee Johanson),” Australasian Record, December 5, 2015, 22.

  29. Personal knowledge of the author. The author was visiting the nursing home where he died at the time of his death.

  30. Graeme Frauenfelder at mother’s 90th birthday celebration, 2015.

  31. Bruce Johanson, interview by author, 2015.

  32. W. E. Rudge, “Johanson-Beecroft,” Australasian Record, November 29, 1948, 6.

  33. Walter Omer Johanson, Worker’s Biographical Record, South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives, folder: “Johanson, Walter Omer,” document: “Worker’s Biographical Record.”

  34. Stewart, 7.

  35. Ibid.

  36. Ibid.

  37. “A Tribute,” Australasian Record, January 7, 1935, 7.

  38. Stewart, 7.

  39. “Life-Sketch of Mrs Susan Johanson,” Australasian Record, June 20, 1987, 14.

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Tarburton, Shirley. "Johanson, Walter Omer (1891–1934)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 29, 2020. Accessed April 23, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=5I1L.

Tarburton, Shirley. "Johanson, Walter Omer (1891–1934)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 29, 2020. Date of access April 23, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=5I1L.

Tarburton, Shirley (2020, January 29). Johanson, Walter Omer (1891–1934). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved April 23, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=5I1L.