Verna was born to Leonard and Virginia (Mohawk) Johnson. She has 2 brothers Leonard and George and 2 sisters, Mary and Bonnie. They resided in Red Springs until she was about 4 years of age when they moved to the Reservation. She attended the Government School until the 5th grade when they closed that school. She remembers the teachers were a husband and a wife who taught the children and lived on the premises.
Bowler School was next and Verna enjoyed playing Basketball and Volleyball while there. She states back then girls didn’t compete with other schools. The girls had to play against other girls in other classes in the same school.
She regrets dropping out of school between 10th and 11th grade to get married but firmly states she never regretted having her children only that she did not continue her education earlier. She is proud of all her children and feels blessed to have them.
After being married 18 years and having 6 children, Terry, Bonnie, Charles III, William, David, and Verna and having lived in Tigerton then Embarrass. She has worked at Pine Manor as a nurse’s aid and took courses through Antigo Tech and received a diploma for accounting and office.
By then she had moved back home to the Reservation and worked at both a nursing home and as the tribal secretary. In those days the tribal secretary was an unpaid position. While Secretary, she had occasion to speak with the Superintendent of the BIA when he was visiting and she spoke to him of her dream to go to school and be a nurse. He told her to go ahead and apply for school which she did and she was surprised and excited to receive the monies to pay for her schooling.
Verna attended NWTC and graduated as a LPN. She also earned an Outstanding Student Award while a student there. She drove the many miles daily and was proud of only missing one day of school throughout her entire time there. She made it to school under extreme weather conditions, illness and almost everything else thrown at her. But one morning her children managed to throw her a real curve ball.
One evening her children had the car. When they were done they parked it in the garage in normal fashion. In the morning as Verna went to leave for school she found the interior of the vehicle filled with smoke. She ran back inside and got Bud out of bed. They were able to get the backseat removed before the entire car went up in flames. This was the infamous day Verna missed school. Apparently, someone who had been in the vehicle the night before threw a lit cigarette out of the window and it must have gone into the rear seat and smoldered the entire night. For many months to come the smell of the previous smoldering fire was pervasive and at times over-powering. Her children sure know how to leave a lasting impression.
Verna worked at Shawano Hospital since right before graduation but it was a third shift position. Verna is not a night owl and after 3 months and a trip into the ditch she knew she needed to get a job on a different shift. She got that job at Homme Home in Wittenberg where she worked until she began working at the Tribal Clinic.
Verna joined the Tribal Clinic in October during its first year of operations. She also continued as Tribal Secretary. On clinic days Verna explains the tribal secretary could not do any work because the desk was covered with a piece of plywood and became an examining table. Her memories of that first clinic are filled with somewhat humorous humble beginnings.
The clinic was in a trailer. There wasn’t any indoor plumbing and you had to send patients to the outhouse to fill their specimen cups. The heat was the fire you had to build yourself. Not everyone there had experience starting fires, so most days Verna got that job. Until the fire warmed the trailer they were unable to use some things as they would be frozen. Even pens would not write it would be so cold.
Verna has been an employee at the Tribal Clinic for 28 years. She has watched it grow and gain new housings. She is proud of what this tribe has accomplished in our new Clinic and she should be proud of her part in it also.
Verna remarried to Babe Miller They then enjoyed another daughter Angel. Babe sadly passed away May 5th, 1997. He is missed and memories and thoughts of him are treasured daily. Verna also raised her granddaughter Ginnie and now enjoys all of her 14 Grandchildren and 3 Great Grandchildren.
Her message to the younger generations is to put education as a priority in life. She encourages involvement in the Community. Serve on Committees; be involved in Church, and to cherish the Children.
Verna is also very proud of the way this Community treats its Elders. She appreciates all the services available to Elders and knows when she needs anything it is only a phone call away. Especially for those that may not have Family members so close or available to help.