Mrs. Geffre Johnson was born to second generation South Dakotans and has lived in the Vermillion area her entire life. She has devoted her life to education and community participation. Mrs. Geffre Johnson began life as Mary Mockler, the oldest and only daughter in her family with three younger brothers. Mary started teaching in 1946 beginning in one room county schools in Leola and the Clay and Union county areas. After 18 years of teaching in county schools she taught for two years at Austin School and then taught for another 28 years at the Vermillion Middle School. Mrs. Geffre Johnson earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in education as she continued to teach during the day.
She retired after teaching a total of 50 years, but continued to substitute for a few additional years in the Catholic schools. Mrs. Geffre Johnson taught her students the importance of community pride and participation. Mary states she gets great joy when one of her students from the past recognizes her and tells her "You haven't changed."
Mrs. Geffre Johnson survived two husbands and honors them both by continuing to use both their names.
Mary has been and continues to be very active in the community. She is an active member of Delta Kappa Gamma, a teacher's professional organization. She has served as president of the group and was honored a few years ago by being selected to participate in the Golden Gift Program – a two-week training program at the University of Texas, Austin.
Mary has been a member of Epsilon Sigma Alpha for 55 years. She is president of the Vermillion chapter of Retired Teachers of South Dakota.
Mrs. Geffre Johnson has been past State Regent and currently serves as Ceremonial Coordinator for the Catholic Daughters of America-St. Agnes Regent. As a member of Catholic Daughters, Mary has spearheaded multiple fund raisers that have benefited St. Agnes School greatly. Mrs. Geffre Johnson has also organized and puts on the Annual Bike Ride for St. Jude's Hospital.
In a world where people frequently complain that someone should do something, Mary Geffre Johnson is the person who responds with "I can do something" and does it. Mary Geffre Johnson is the fifth recipient of the "Friend of St. Agnes School" Award. Previous recipients of this award have been Margaret Bierle, Jim Kronaizl, and John and Barbara Bernard.