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Leslie and Olga Johnson

Husband's Full Name: Leslie Miles Johnson

Husband's Place of Birth: Manfred Township

Husband's Father's Name: John A. Johnson

Husband's Mother's Name: Malena Johnson

Husband's Siblings' Names: Alvin, Edna, Pearl, Miles, Russell, Everett

Wife's Full Name: Olga Cecelia Opsal

Wife's Place of Birth: Rusland Township

Wife's Father's Name: Ole L. Opsal

Wife's Mother's Name: Annie Opsahl

Wife's Siblings’ Names: Martha, Lewis (died as a baby)

Children's Names:  Larry, Laverne, Jim, David,

Dianne, Marilyn

Johnson Leslie_Olga 50th.jpg

Leslie Johnson was born December 27, 1910, the fourth child of six (two others had died in infancy), to John and Malena (nee Johnson) Johnson. He grew up on the farm 1 ½ miles northwest of Manfred which his parents had homesteaded. He graduated from Harvey High School and attended North Dakota Agricultural College (NDSU) in Fargo. After college, Leslie farmed with his father and brother, Russell.


Six children were born to this union: Larry, Laverne, and James (Orville) were delivered by Dr. P.A. Boyum, who had also delivered both Leslie and Olga. The doctor in attendance at the births of David, Dianne, and Marilyn was Dr. P.A. Boyum's son, Dr. Lowell Boyum.

All of the Johnson children attended their parents' alma mater, Harvey High School, except Dianne who opted to go to Fessenden. At one point, the six Johnson children were attending six different schools: Larry at NDAC (NDSU) in Fargo, Laverne at Minot State, Jim at Harvey, David at Drake, Dianne at Fessenden, and Marilyn at Manfred. David had the most variety in schools, attending Manfred, Drake, Harvey, and graduating from Minot High School.

 Leslie frequently attended NDAC extension classes and was always eager to look at new and innovative farming practices. Besides small grain farming and dairying, he also raised capons, laying hens, and Hereford beef cattle. In 1945, he discontinued the cattle and other ventures except for crop farming and started raising a few hundred turkeys. This diversification eventually led to a turkey enterprise of up to 12,000 birds annually.

In 1946, Leslie and Olga bought a farm half a mile northwest of the original homestead, and with their two children at the time, Larry and Laverne, moved up there. Leslie's brother, Russell, and his family moved to Riverside Farm where they lived for five years until relocating back to Seattle. Leslie and Olga then moved their family, now including James and the young twins, David and Dianne, back to Riverside Farm. Marilyn came along later.

Both Leslie and Olga were the kind of people who really made a difference in the world. Leslie pursued innovative farming methods and pioneered a low-cost market feed for turkeys, which revolutionized the turkey industry. When the Federal Government attempted to institute marketing orders in an attempt to control animal agriculture, Leslie testified at a United States Congressional Hearing and was later told by North Dakota's Congressional delegation that his testimony had been instrumental in killing the marketing orders. Leslie was also active and served in leadership roles in church, community, and state organizations.

Olga worked tirelessly to advance opportunities for handicapped individuals on the local, state, and national levels. She was a founder and charter member of both the North Dakota Association for Retarded Citizens and the Central Association for Retarded Citizens. She was a two-term president of the NDARC and served on the board of directors for many years. She coordinated and served on an educational panel which traveled to every area of the state working to establish Special Education classrooms in the schools, and she taught leadership training seminars across North Dakota. Leslie worked beside Olga in all these endeavors and they proved to be a powerful team leaving a lasting legacy which has benefited countless individuals. Olga was also committed to other organizations, taking an active part and holding office in many church, community, and state organizations.

In keeping with their adventurous spirits, one of Leslie and Olga's favorite things to do was travel together. They traveled on five continents and in later years took close to 20 trips by cruise ship. Olga could read and speak three languages, and Leslie was known by family and friends as a "walking encyclopedia." Olga died July 30, 2000, and Leslie died February 2, 2002.

Written by Laverne Johnson


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