When Harry Truman pulled out the upset in the 1948 Presidential election, a 13-year-old girl named Loretta started as a Red Cross Candy Striper at First Presbyterian Hospital in New York. Loretta Johanson would go on to spend the next seven decades as a Red Cross volunteer. Loretta, an affable spitfire of a lady, would often joke “when you see my name in the obituaries that will be when I stop volunteering.”
The 84-Year-old passed away on July 29, 2020 at her home in Fairborn, Ohio. “I want to thank each and every one of the Red Cross workers,” expressed Cathy Foster, Loretta’s daughter. “My mom loved her job more than anything in the world and being with each and every one of you always made her day. No matter how much pain that lady was in, she always went to work.” Foster concluded, “I want to thank all of you for everything that you have done. You will forever be in my heart.”
According to family members, Loretta often talked about all the people she knew at the Red Cross. One of those people was Lynne Gump the executive director for Miami Valley, Ohio chapter. “It’s through the commitment and devotion of volunteers like Loretta, that the American Red Cross is able to continue its mission,” Gump said. “As a Service to the Armed Forces volunteer, she’s had a great impact on the lives of the men and women who serve in our military.”
Most recently, Loretta was the volunteer coordinator at Wright Patterson Air Force Base where she staffed the Red Cross office in room BK-K2 in the basement of the Medical Center; there she provided her expertise of ARC services, as well as a kind and gentle support, to the servicemen and women and their families who visited. She was also responsible for volunteer intake and assignments; tracking volunteer hours and participation; and award nominations. Loretta lead a group of volunteers who devoted 1,000 hours per month to the Red Cross.
In the last five years, Loretta personally logged has 5,153 hours volunteer hours. Although the majority of her time was spent within Service to the Armed Forces program, she was also a Disaster Responder, a Training Services Instructor, supported outreach activities such as information fairs and parades, and supported other chapter related activities.
In 2018, Loretta was presented with her 70-year volunteer recognition pin at a chapter ceremony in Troy, Ohio, honoring her and other Red Cross volunteers. Loretta, who spoke fondly of her many years with the Red Cross, during an impromptu speech, refused her walker to assist her from the podium back to her seat. “That’s typical Loretta,” said Andrew Guidugli, former Regional Service to the Armed Forces Director and now Senior Volunteer Recruitment specialist for the Central and Southern Ohio Region. “Loretta would never turn down an assignment and would never let her age stop her in her devotion to the Red Cross.” Guidugli continued, “Loretta was an amazing volunteer and I don’t think we will see someone like her again. She truly cared about helping service members in any way possible. Her passion and drive were unmatched for serving her community. It is definitely a tough day for the Red Cross and for those that were lucky enough to have known her.”
According to an interview Loretta gave to the Greenville Daily Advocate in 2017, during her long volunteer career, she was involved in wars and many disasters helping to set up temporary shelters and clinics. During the time of the Vietnam War, she set up clinics at the Clark Air Force Base, then a U.S. Air Force base in the Philippines. She also provided assistance with the Red Cross disaster response to the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City.
During her time at the Red Cross, Loretta received many chapter and regional awards and recognition. She was also a nominee for the National Red Cross Presidential Award.
“Loretta Johanson is a wonderful example of the Greatest Generation,” said Stephanie Byrd, Regional Executive for Central and Southern Ohio. “She understood at an early age the importance of personal responsibility, joining the Red Cross as a young teenager. Throughout her Red Cross career, she demonstrated integrity, an ethic of hard work and personal commitment to serve others. We are grateful for her 70 plus years of service and are better because of her presence.”
Loretta is survived by her husband Dave; brother Jonathan; daughters, Cathy, Debbie and Karen; grandchildren; great grandchildren and many nieces and nephews. Services for Loretta will be held August 3 in Enon, Ohio