Johnnie Defa passed away peacefully on Feb. 26, surrounded by his family. He was born Oct. 29, 1931, in Fort Bridger, to Rose and Leo Defa. Johnnie graduated from Mountain View High School in 1950. He married Betty Sheets Dec. 27, 1954, in Evanston and their marriage was solemnized in the Salt Lake City Temple April 28, 1990.
He was drafted, so he entered the Army in April 1953 and he was released from active duty in 1954 and received his honorable discharge in 1961 from the reserves.
Johnnie started his Army career in Fort Douglas in Salt Lake City. He received his basic training in California at Camp Roberts and Fort Ord. Both of these places were for infantry training.
In December 1953, he was sent to Munich, Germany, and worked as a company clerk. Johnnie was sent where there was no conflict because his brother had been killed in an accident on the ranch and he was the youngest member of his family so the Army would not send him to battle. The rest of his company went to Korea.
Johnnie posed for a picture that was used for infantry sportsmanship. Johnnie was a Private First Class in rank. When Johnnie went to Germany he flew from California to New Jersey and boarded a ship. The trip took 14 days and while on the ship he had KP (kitchen police) duty.
Johnnie received a hardship release because his brother Harry had been hit and killed by lightning, and his dad hurt his shoulders and needed Johnnie to work the ranch.
He met Betty at a restaurant in Bridger Valley when she was visiting her sister and brother-in-law. He was struck instantly.
After the ranch was sold, Johnnie started driving truck. He drove for many companies such as Vic Powers, Milne, Ellingford Brothers and Norris Construction. Johnnie had the nickname of “Johnnie Smoke” while he drove truck. When he was diagnosed with cancer, he was told he could not drive anymore.
Not being able to drive broke his heart because it was not a job; it was his hobby. He drove truck until he was 83 years old. He taught many people how to drive truck including his grandsons. The only hobby Johnnie had was planting his sweet peas and enjoying the beautiful flowers.
He is preceded in death by his loving wife; parents; and siblings Leo, Harry, Joe, Don, Tony, Junior, Margaret and Mary.
He is survived by his children, Glen (Kathy) Defa, Liz (Rick) Crompton and Johna (Craig) Revelli; eight grandchildren; 24 great-grandchildren; and five great-great-grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers the family ask donations be made to Best Home Heath or to mentor a young person and teach them the value of hard work or service to others.
A viewing from 10-10:45 a.m., Thursday, March 1, at Crandall Funeral Home, will be followed by a graveside service at 11 a.m. at the Evanston City Cemetery.