Paula Jo Johnson
Paula Jo Johnson was born to Paul and Delores (née Peterson) Johnson in 1954. She was the oldest of four siblings. Like everything else in her life, she took her sister responsibilities seriously and maintained strong sibling relationships her entire life.
Paula graduated from the Aspen schools in 1972. She became the first in her family to go to and graduate from college. One winter break, she met Robert Grundy, a fellow CU Boulder student, en route to a nighttime tubing adventure on Buttermilk. The two married in 1978 in Paula’s grandmother’s backyard. Paula wore what her daughters fondly refer to as the brown tunic. Paula and Robert spent their wedding night at JFK airport and their first three months of marriage exploring Europe.
Paula returned to Boulder and earned her Master’s Degree in journalism from CU in 1981. She wrote many articles for Destination Magazine, a series in the Denver Post, and a few novels that she never let anyone read. After graduate school, Paula and Robert spent six months camping through Mexico and Central America.
Paula and Robert returned to Aspen where their daughters Erin and Halley were born. Paula worked at Reese Henry & Co., but left to become a full-time mom and adjunct faculty at CMC Aspen. When Paula set out to do something, she did it with everything she had. Being a mother was no exception. She was a Girl Scout leader, a school volunteer, and a seamstress extraordinaire for all of her daughters’ costumes (the supplies for which usually originated from the legendary basement). As a teacher, she was selected as the outstanding CMC adjunct faculty teacher of the year for her inspirational teaching of all things English.
Paula returned to work full time at the Aspen Center for Physics, where she eventually served as Financial Officer and worked with fellow “Phyzzie ladies” Jane Kelly and Patty Fox, as well as many wonderful physicists. She was proud of the work they did and honored to be a part of innovation, research, and new beginnings.
Paula loved to travel, and in 1995 the family became some of the first automobile visitors to Mexico’s Copper Canyon, previously accessible by donkey or helicopter only. In 2013 Paula, Robert, and Halley hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Paula’s travels took her to England, France, Italy, and all over the United States. She had hoped Cambodia would be her next trip.
But, in 2014, Paula was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, a rare and aggressive form of the disease. She battled through chemo, surgery, and radiation, and was pronounced cancer-free in early 2015. In September, she and Robert returned to England and France to celebrate their 37th wedding anniversary. In November, Paula, her daughters, and her sister Kristin went to Atlanta for a sisters’ weekend to buy Halley’s wedding dress. A week later, Paula learned that the cancer had spread to her brain. She did everything possible to treat the cancer aggressively, and she maintained a positive attitude through every awful progression of the disease.
Paula was taken from this world far too soon, and was only a few weeks away from meeting her first grandchild. But in the time she was given, she celebrated more than four decades of life, love, and laughter with Robert. She raised two girls and watched them graduate from high school and college, enter careers, and become women that she was proud of. She loved her siblings, her cousins, her nieces and nephews, her friends, and she did everything possible to make sure that they knew it.
Paula spent a lot of time in the last year thinking about what really matters, and she passed along a few ideas. First, savor a perfect moment each and every day because “that is what life is, a series of moments.” Second, don’t wait to do what you want; she was so glad that she traveled early rather than waiting for years that never came. Third, choose joy.
Paula was predeceased by her mother, Delores Johnson. She is survived by her husband, Robert Grundy, daughters Erin Grundy (Jacob Lofgren) and Halley Grundy (fiancé William Pettijohn-Hernandez), father Paul Johnson, brothers Peter & Eric Johnson, sister Kristin (Tom) Boronski, brother-in-law Jimmy (Sandra) Grundy, four nieces, two nephews, many wonderful cousins, several life-long friends, and one mean cat.
A celebration of Paula’s life will occur on Saturday, August 6, 2016 at 2:00 p.m. at the Aspen Center for Physics, high tea to follow. Please carpool. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the Aspen Center for Physics, 700 W. Gillespie St., Aspen, CO 81611, http://www.apenphys.org.
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