Friends gather to remember Albert Lea native

Published 2:02 pm Saturday, August 3, 2013

Hundreds of people gathered Thursday at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Owatonna to remember an Albert Lea High School graduate who died last month in a crash in Utah.

Karen Johnson, 51, most recently of Owatonna, was the president of T-Totalers of Minnesota car club and had reportedly worked as a paramedic for the last 12 years, said her half brother, Christian Hansen, of Albert Lea.

“I never realized how many lives my sister touched,” Hansen said.

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This was evident during her service, he said, which included a procession by two helicopters flying overhead, fire trucks, police squads, numerous Corvettes and about 10 Model T cars. There was also an honor guard of about 50 people, including sheriff’s crews and paramedics, among others.

“It was overwhelming because at some point she had touched their lives,” Hansen said.

Johnson was killed in a wreck July 26 outside Utah’s Zion National Park.

Karen Johnson

Karen Johnson

According to authorities, Johnson was riding in a 1915 Model T, when one of the wheel’s wooden spokes collapsed on the edge of the pavement, and the car rolled over. All four occupants were ejected as the car was not equipped with seat belts and had its top down.

The car had been pulled off to the side of the road to let faster traffic pass.

Johnson was on an annual tour with the Model T Ford Club International. Her husband was in the car ahead. Hansen and his wife, Annette, said in addition to Johnson’s hobby of Model T cars and Corvettes, she enjoyed trips to Mexico and was a scuba diver.

She graduated from Albert Lea High School in the early 1980s and at that time was involved with gymnastics and the dance line, Hansen said.

“She was a great lady and will be missed,” he said.