June 2021 Newsletter

The latest in our series…

People of the Park:

Brenda and Mike Johnson


Dale Dauten

We love to hear stories about that old Resort magic, the ones where people come to visit The Resort and then never want to leave. Today’s account comes from Mike and Brenda Johnson…

Mike told us, “My wife’s sister had a place at The Resort and Brenda wanted to go visit for a month. I was reluctant – I couldn’t see how being out in the desert was worth a month’s visit. But my wife dragged me out and after two weeks, I said, ‘We should do three months next year.’ And the next year it was six months and I said, ‘If we’re going to be here six months, we might as well buy.”

Not only did they buy, but the six months has turned into something approaching year-round residency, especially with the pandemic. As Mike put it, “We’ve been here 21 of the last 22 months and we like it. At this point, the heat doesn’t bother us.”


Nice. And we also love to hear the tales of how couples first met, especially those from folks married over 50 years. Both Brenda and Mike are from Minneapolis and they met at a party, or maybe it was a pair of parties… we’ll let them explain…

MIKE: “I met Brenda at an open-house type party. They had dry-roasted peanuts in the shell and I was eating them and throwing the shells on the floor and that did not sit well with her. I learned early on the advantage of the phrase, ‘Yes, dear.’”

BRENDA: “A friend of mine was having a party and Mike was at a party at the apartment next door. He stole the peanuts I’d brought and was making a mess. I gave him a hard time about it; but it was all in fun, joking around.”

It doesn’t sound like an ideal start, but they’ve been married 52 years, so, hey, it all worked out.

(Below are photos from Brenda and Mike’s visit to Arizona’s Wupatki National Monument.)


We also wanted to learn how it was that Mike has become well-known around The Resort for being a computer guru and one of the leaders of the computer club.

Turns out his interest in computing is nothing new. Back before the party with Brenda’s peanuts, Mike had been off to serve in the Marines and had done two tours in Vietnam. In fact, he officially graduated from high school while in boot camp. One of his memories from boot camp was being given a series of aptitude tests and he recalled, “I was the first person ever to pass the computer programming test.” It was a new test because this was way back, in the days of punch cards. So the Marines assigned him to do computer work, right? Nope. “There was a priority need for tankers,” he explained, “and so I was assigned to the 1st Tank Battalion.”

After the Marines, he enrolled in college and studied Architecture, Psychology and English, among others. He explained by saying, “I’d take what I was interested in and take it till the interest ran out.” (Remember that sentence.)

After college, the young couple decided to head to Shangri-La; that is, they left Minnesota to settle in Hawaii. Brenda found a job in a bank, but Mike never found a permanent position, taking a series of temporary assignments with the Federal government. That lack of permanence took a toll and they headed back to Minnesota. Relocating worked: Mike took a job with Dayton’s department stores, which happened to own B. Dalton Booksellers.

(I don’t know about you, but B. Dalton’s used to be my favorite place in the mall. The photo is thought to be from the 1980s.)

It was there Mike started doing computer work and was able to accelerate his learning. Bookstores can return unsold books to publishers for a refund, but to save on printing and storage, stores just tear off the covers and return those, agreeing not to resell the now-coverless books. But the store let Mike take whatever refunded computer books he wanted, and he wanted a lot of them.

Eventually, he was recruited by Egghead Software, then by Computer City, a part of Radio Shack and finally he ended up back with the Federal government, being the IT guy for the U.S. District Court in Minneapolis. That’s the job he retired from in 2010.

Mike says this about computers and programming: “There’s always something extra to learn. You never know it all. You can never rest on your laurels.”


Let’s end with our favorite questions. We asked Mike what was the best advice he’d ever gotten:

“I had a teacher who told me, ‘As long as you’re learning you’ll never grow old.’ Half of that was right: My brain hasn’t gotten old, but my body got real old.”

Brenda then gave us a description of what a perfect day looks like:

“Any day in the desert – a morning walk, time at the pool, or hiking – any day spent outside. And then to have a nice dinner with my husband.” Brenda laughed and added, “But don’t tell Mike I said that.”


A special bonus: Brenda passed a few of the photos she’s taken at The Resort. She’s a regular contributor of photography to the Facebook group “Resort peeps.”


Thanks to Dan Tuchenhagen for letting us know we should write about the Johnsons. If you know someone in the park you’d like to learn more about via one of our People of the Park profiles, please let us know.

Or, if you have photos you’ll like to share in upcoming newsletters, please send them.

Dale Dauten


Email: ddauten@gmail.com

Text: 480-297-6244