Marva Johnson Whittaker, our precious mom and grandma, after a wonderful life filled with joy, service and love, passed away peacefully at her home on October 14, 2021, one day short of her 98th birthday.
She was born in Salt Lake City on October 15, 1923, to Edwin Earl Johnson and Ruth Pauline Morris Johnson. Marva spent her childhood days in East Millcreek, living at 2139 East 3300 South and attending Sherman Elementary. She was especially close to her mother, Pauline, who had a heart condition that compromised her strength and led Marva, as the only daughter and oldest of the four children, to be constantly at her mom's side helping with household chores. They were best friends, and did everything together, work and play. Some of their regular retreats were driving to a secluded spot and eating their "noon day soup," and parking near a creek with the car doors open while they darned socks. Everything was fun when done together.
When she was 16 the family purchased a four acre parcel straddling Millcreek, on Evergreen Avenue, and built a new home, moving in just before Thanksgiving. Pauline was hospitalized shortly after and passed away three days after Christmas. The loss of her mother and best friend caused Marva a heartache she grieved her whole life.
Marva took over all the household chores, doing the wash in a ringer washer, ironing, cleaning the house, grocery shopping, preparing the family meals, and caring for her brothers – all while a high school student. "Working with Mom it wasn't a burden, but doing it without her was almost more than I could bear." Eighteen months later her dad married Winifred Ensign. Marva graduated from Granite High in 1941, and during WWII performed secretarial services for the Department of Labor while "all the boys were gone to war."
She married her sweetheart Joe Richards Whittaker in June 1946. He called her Marvalous. In 1949 they built a home on the family's four acre parcel, as would her younger brothers, creating "Johnsonville." Marva loved being surrounded by her parents and brothers' families, and seeing her children grow up with their cousins.
Marva loved her home and the work they'd done to build it. "We didn't just drive by and see it and decide to buy it. No, we designed it, watched them dig the basement, poured our own cement, did hours of manual labor, did our own landscaping, and made it what we wanted." It was her dream home and she never stopped enjoying it. She prized summer evenings on the deck, talking with family and every neighbor strolling down Millstream Lane, and falling to sleep each night to the sound of the waterfall outside her window. She accomplished her ultimate wish of living in the house the rest of her life: she died in the home where she had lived for 72 years.
Marva lived a life of service. She taught her kids to always look out for the underdog, was a devoted caregiver to her aging relatives, and earned the nickname "soup lady" at church for taking soup whenever she learned of a neighbor with any kind of need. She served at voting polls, in PTA, and in many church positions, including ward Relief Society President.
She loved full moons, caramel banana milkshakes, and fresh corn and tomatoes from their huge Garden of Weeden. She loved giving and receiving greeting cards and thank you notes, and kept them forever, re-reading them during hard times to lift her spirits. If you wrote Marva a card, she still has it.
But being Grandma was the joy of her life. Marva absolutely adored all 14 grandkids and made each of them feel like her favorite. She and Joe went to their ball games and piano and dance recitals, and joined them on family trips. If the grandkids were together she wanted to be there. She showered them with affection and loved having them to Sunday dinner, summer barbecues, and having them sleep over for days at a time when their parents traveled. When the grandkids would leave she'd walk out the driveway as she waved goodbye to the parting car, walking and waving all the way into the street until the waving grandkids were out of sight. She was a good example to her grandkids, and glowed as all 10 grandsons and 2 granddaughters served LDS missions, and as she saw all 14 married in the temple.
She was thrilled as the great-grandkids arrived, and knew all their names and gave them her giant heart. She constantly told everyone in the family how much she loved them, and loved her family so deeply her eyes teared and her voice cracked during goodbyes.
In her final years she looked forward to leaving this world, noting that at her age she knew "more people on that side than this side." Marva eagerly anticipated being reunited with Joe, and with her mom who she had missed desperately for 82 years. There are joyous celebrations in heaven this week. And, hopefully, fresh peaches.
Marva was preceded in death by her husband Joe, and her brothers Morris and Jerry. She will be greatly missed by two daughters, Jill (Fred) Healey, and Ginger Evans (Gerald) Hyde, her son, Joe Richards Whittaker Jr (Shelley), a brother Ronald Johnson (Doris), and a proud posterity of 14 grandchildren and spouses, 68 great-grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews, all of whom loved her dearly.
Funeral services will be held Wednesday, October 20, at 11:30 am, at the Valley View chapel at 2125 Evergreen Ave. Friends and family are invited to a viewing on Tuesday evening from 6:00-7:30 pm, and Wednesday morning from 10:00–11:00 am, also at the Valley View chapel. In lieu of flowers, please make soup for a neighbor.
The funeral will be broadcast live online for those unable to attend in person. To watch the funeral scroll to the bottom of Marva's obituary page at www.HolbrookMortuary.com
; where the funeral will remain available to watch for 90 days. -
Published by Deseret News from Oct. 16 to Oct. 18, 2021.