Laurel Elaine Runyon was born March 8, 1928 to Beverly Byrd and Mamie Murtle Surface Runyon on the family farm near Percival, Iowa. She was one of seven daughters born to that union. Her siblings included Stina, Ruby, Jenny, Lois, Bernice, and Donna. She attended primary school in Percival, Iowa and finished high school at Sydney Iowa, where she lived with her family after moving from the farm during the depression. While in Sydney, Laurel worked at her first job when she was sixteen making powdered eggs for service men, cared for people in their homes, and worked various jobs until her marriage.
In 1950, Laurel married Marcus Eugene Johnson, after his service in the Navy during World War II. From that union, four children were born: Lynn Ann, Thomas Craig, Kristin Marie, and Richard Lee. She and Marcus made their home in Auburn where Laurel took her job as homemaker and mother very seriously. She spent her time cooking, cleaning, and caring for husband and children. During the 1960?s, Laurel managed the American Legion Club kitchen, where she cooked professionally for several years. Laurel remained married to Marcus for eighteen years until their divorce in 1968. She remained supportive of Marcus through his relationships with their children and his bout with lung cancer and death in 1998.
As a single parent, Laurel at times worked three jobs to support her children, which included waitressing, cabinet making, and babysitting. She purchased and owned a restaurant in Auburn called ?Laurel?s Lunch?, where she managed, cooked, and served homemade soups, sandwiches, and desserts for local customers. She sold that business when she remarried and moved to Oklahoma.
In 1974 Laurel married Herman Sears, who had served in the Army during WWII and retired in the National Guard as a Lt. Colonel. She enjoyed her stepchildren and their families from that marriage who included Nancy, Sandy, Marcia, and Debbie. Laurel and Herman made their home together in El Reno, Oklahoma for several years where they both worked at the Sears family business and later moved back to Auburn in retirement. While in El Reno, Laurel made many friends through memberships in the El Reno Extension Club, American Legion, and Eagles Club. She maintained memberships in American Legion Auxiliary and Eagles clubs when she returned to Auburn as well as her allegiance to the Methodist Church in Auburn. During her residence in El Reno, Laurel and Herman ?adopted? a son, named Tommy, who lived with them during his senior year in high school. They called him ?son?, and he calls her ?Mom? to this day. Laurel?s union with Herman lasted fourteen years until his death in 1988 after a year-long bout with leukemia.
Throughout Laurel?s life, she was an excellent seamstress and enjoyed making clothes for her children and herself. After her own bout with breast cancer, at the age of 50, Laurel became a master at making her own clothing to fit properly. She was an excellent cook and enjoyed sharing and ?swapping? recipes with many friends and relatives. She developed recipes of her own and knew exactly who to contact to make nearly any dish. She loved to entertain and serve meals and desserts to family and friends. She loved dancing and was a huge Husker football fan. Many football games were a source of joy, frustration, and fun--especially when Nebraska and Oklahoma were on the field.
Laurel also had an eye for art and decoration. She loved decorating and redecorating her home and learned to do that all on a budget. She developed knowledge and interest in antiques and spent many hours and days refinishing many auction ?finds?, which remain in her home and the homes of her children.
Above all else, Laurel was committed to family. She opened her home to many relatives as it was needed and loved to gather with children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. She enjoyed weekly card games with her daughter, son-in-law, and grandson. She prepared special foods for those events when it was her turn to ?host? and loved doing that. She was thrilled when a son, daughter, or grandchild called or came by to ask about a particular recipe or technique in preparing food. When her family would chide her in later years for cooking too much as her stamina waned, she would say ?When I stop cooking, I?ll be dead.? Directions on how to make apple pie occurred in her hospital room at the Nemaha County Hospital in June 2013 when she guided her granddaughter, Rachael, to make an apple pie for a father?s day gift.
Laurel had a huge and generous heart until her death at age 85 on August 1, 2013 at St. Elizabeth?s Hospital in Lincoln. She spent the months of May and June in hospitals and July in her home and her son?s home with family and caregivers until her last brief hospital stay and death. She was preceded in death by her parents, her husbands, and all of her siblings and their husbands. Her survivors include her children, Lynn Dierberger and husband Scott, Craig Johnson and wife Glenda, Kristin Christensen and husband Ken, Richard Johnson and wife Deborah, Tommy Williams, Nancy Pasco and husband Lee, Sandy Frey and husband Rob, Marcia Porter, Deb Holtz and husband Les. Laurel leaves behind a cousin, Johnny, and many nieces, nephews, grandchildren, great grandchildren and their families, and friends
Funeral services will be Monday, August 5, 11:00 a.m. at the First United Methodist Church in Auburn. Burial will follow in Sheridan West Cemetery near Auburn. Visitation will be at the funeral home Sunday 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.