Leland Johnston

March 25, 1925 ~ April 26, 2022 (age 97)


Leland Ralph Johnston (fondly known as "LJ" to family, "Pinky" to generations of friends) passed away peacefully in the early hours of April 26, 2022, at the age of 97, in Lincoln Nebraska, where he had been residing since 2008.

Leland was born March 25, 1925 in Orleans, Nebraska. His parents were Violet Hopkins Johnston and Frederick Barnabas Johnston, both now deceased. He had 5 sisters, Merna, Eva, Loie, Ida, and Myra, and 3 brothers, Stewart, Alfred and Merlin, who died as a child.

Leland attended school in Halsey, Elsmere and Orleans, until he was 16, when he quit school to go to work. He worked at various jobs in the Sandhills until 1943 when he was drafted. Leland served in the U.S. Army during and after World War II in New Guinea, the Philippines and Korea.  

He married Patsy Jean Simonson on October 1, 1949, in Valentine, Nebraska. Leland and Pat settled in Thedford, where they raised 5 children: Doug, Steve, Jerri, Kelly and Lisa.

Leland was a real cattleman and was always happiest when he was working with cattle. Throughout his life he worked as a ranch hand, a truck driver hauling cattle, a cattle buyer, an auctioneer, salebarn owner, a feedlot owner and manager, a rancher running his own cattle, and just about every other cattle-related job you can think of. 

Leland was also an expert small-plane pilot. He flew his Piper Cub J3 all over the Sandhills for many years (flying windmills for Sandhills ranchers, among other things), and anyone who ever rode with him knew he could safely put that little plane down just about anywhere, even on the side of a hill.

In 1981, some forty years after quitting school, Leland took the GED test and got his high-school diploma. Soon after, he got his real-estate license and worked successfully as a real-estate agent and broker for several years.

In 2015, Leland completed his memoirs and published them under the title "Struggle for Survival." Though his book was intended to be just for family and close friends, to date over 230 copies have been sold.

Leland was predeceased by his wife, Pat; his parents and all his sisters and brothers; and a son-in-law, Thomas Neill.

He is survived by his children, Douglas Lee of Puerto Vallarta, Steven Lynn (Sharon) of New York, Jerri Ann Thompson (Brian) of Omaha, Kelly Sue Neill of Lincoln, and Lisa Kay Franklin (Brad) of Kansas City; 7 grandchildren, Jordan Keys (Elizabeth) of Albuquerque NM, Drew Jetter of Seattle WA, and Rachel, David, Hannah, Elisabeth and Simon Franklin of Kansas City; 2 great-grandchildren, Bailey and Ryder Keys; and many nephews, nieces, and cousins.

Memorial service will be held at the United Church of Christ in Thedford, Nebraska.  Date to be announced.

The family suggests memorials to Hillcrest Cemetery, Thedford,

To send flowers to Leland's family, please visit our floral store.


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