Elizabeth Christine Strandberg was born on July 3, 1937, to parents Herbert and Eugenie (Zabell) Strandberg in Seattle, Washington. Her father was the first employee of Seattle City Light and her mother a former elementary school teacher. Lizzie’s earliest years were spent in Ballard until her parents bought a home in the Magnolia neighborhood of Seattle during World War II. She graduated from Queen Anne High School in 1955.
Lizzie’s love of music began when she found a violin that had been forgotten in a closet in their new home and began playing it. She impressed her violin teacher who grabbed her hands and exclaimed “I don’t know how you play with such short fingers!” Before long she added both the viola and piano to her repertoire. Her musical talent earned her membership in Seattle’s Junior Symphony Orchestra (1952-1955) and the inaugural year of Washington’s All-State Orchestra (1955). After high school she attended Cottey College (1957), where she was a member of the orchestra, and then Whitman College (1959), where she played with the school as well as the Walla Walla Symphony (1957 – 1959).
During finals week of her senior year at Whitman, she and fellow senior Preston Johnson went on their first date to the play “Anne of Green Gables,” followed by drinks at the storied Green Lantern Tavern in Walla Walla. Liz returned from the date and told her roommate that “This is the man I am going to marry” and two years later she did!
After college, Liz took a job teaching at an elementary school in Olympia, and Preston was stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia. The distance made dating impossible, so she wooed him with packages of homemade goodies. She prided herself in coming up with creative ways to send him treats so that they arrived safely. One time she sent Preston his favorite German Chocolate cake, and to prevent it from being turned upside down, she put a see-through lid on the box. When his commander viewed the cake, he ordered Preston to marry her, and he did.
Preston and Liz were married in Seattle on June 17, 1961. After their honeymoon, they headed to Ft. Benning, Georgia, where Preston completed his military service in September 1962. They packed up their brand-new car with their newborn daughter, Alisa, and headed back to Seattle, where they both landed jobs with the Federal Way School District. They quickly welcomed two more children, daughter Dina and son Miles, to the family.
In 1967, Liz became the director of the first Head Start Program in Federal Way. When she saw how the parents of her students had to travel all over the county to access needed government benefits, she teamed up with other families to establish the South King County Multi-Service Center to make receiving benefits easier. She served as both the Secretary and President of the Board of Directors (1970-75) during the early years. The Multi-Service Center now serves 40,000 people annually with a budget of over $20 million dollars.
After Preston graduated from law school, Liz took time off to be a stay-at-home mom. When he left corporate law to open a general practice law office in 1972, Liz became his legal secretary and right-hand gal. When they moved the office from Seattle to Federal Way, everyone in the family eventually spent at least some time working there. Liz and Preston worked together nearly every day until they retired.
In the late 1970’s, the Johnson family became active in the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Federal Way. Over the years Liz served on the Vestry, the Hospitality Committee, Card Making Ministry, the breakfast ministry for the FW Caregivers, and as a Eucharistic Minister and Intercessor at Sunday services.
In the early 1970’s, she helped host the national convention of Psi Iota Xi in Seattle. She was an officer and active member in a local P.E.O. Sisterhood chapter for over 40 years.
Liz and Preston made an incredibly effective team and quickly became a package deal. Together they would help an organization to run more smoothly and grow. They would always leave an organization better than they found it, and usually with one of Liz’s binders with detailed step-by-step instructions on how to do everything so that anyone could pick up where they left off.
They volunteered as members in the early days of Burien Actors Theater, Candlestick Player, and Centerstage Theatre as well as the Washington Bar Association and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. They also served together on the Evergreen State Volkssport Association and the American Volkssport Association boards. Several times they corralled the entire family into hosting the annual Rinehart family reunion at locations in Washington and Oregon. They became national leaders in Episcopal Marriage Encounter and worked together in Cursillo and the Kairos Prison Ministry.
In 2004 she returned to her love of music by volunteering with the Federal Way Symphony. She would spend the next 18 years in a variety of roles from Co-President of the Board of Directors, President of the Auxiliary, creating invitations to Receptions and the Conductors Club, working on several committees such as the Garden Tours, Auctions, Bylaws, Audience Development and Guest Artists.During her years with the Federal Way Symphony, she managed to get everyone in the Johnson family involved in one way or another.
Before retiring, Liz and Preston made the decision to travel while they still could. They did a volkswalk in every state, as well as every county in both Washington and Oregon, several provinces in Canada, Mexico, and England. On their volksmarch in London in 2003, Queen Elizabeth waved at them from her carriage on her way to the opening of Parliament. In Japan, they climbed Mount Fuji and visited temples on Shikoku Island with members of the Japan Walking Association, successfully encouraging them to join the International Volkssport Federation. For their 40th Wedding Anniversary their children gave them a cruise to Alaska, and they were hooked. Cruising became their vacation of choice, and they had many adventures sailing in the Caribbean, the Panama Canal and around the Hawaiian Islands. Their last cruise in September 2019 was another trip to Alaska that was made even more memorable because it included their entire family.
Liz was blessed with a loving family. She married her best friend, right arm and partner in life, Preston, and spent over sixty joy-filled years with him. Together, they raised their three children - and many “adopted” family members - with love, patience, discipline and humility. She was a deeply spiritual woman who loved God and remained an educator at heart her entire life.
She led by example, teaching those around her professionalism, community service, and unconditional love. We often remark just how blessed our family is, because we not only love each other, we also like each other. This is without a doubt because she both taught and showed us how to be a family. Preston Johnson, the love of her life, preceded her in death in February 2022. She is lovingly remembered by her daughters, Alisa Johnson and Dina Johnson, her son, Miles Johnson (John), grandchildren, Sophie (formerly called Tristan) Johnson and Nicholas Johnson, her brother Herbert V. Strandberg Jr. (Melitta), her niece Christine Mauk (Buell), nephew Timothy Strandberg and her “adopted” girls, Mai, Donna, Malinda, Alexis and Lindsay, and her many Rinehart cousins. She will be dearly missed by her friends and all who knew her.
The family wishes to express their sincere appreciation to Franciscan Hospice and Palliative Care for making Liz’s passing an opportunity to say goodbye, surrounded by her loved ones. What a blessing hospice is!
Should you wish to honor her memory with a donation, may we recommend programs that were near and dear to her heart: the Church of the Good Shepherd Memorial Fund, the Federal Way Symphony or the South King County Multi-Service Center.