Lael Jeannine (Johnson) Wellington, 92, lost her battle with cancer on Sunday afternoon, August 20, 2023 at home, in Goodyear, Arizona, where she had resided for the past eight months. In 2021, she had courageously weathered breast cancer during the pandemic. After a brief remission, it returned as metastasized lung cancer in 2022.
Lael was born June 24, 1931 at Cheyenne, WY to Elwood and Ila (Jones) Johnson, the second of three red-headed daughters. Elwood served as a dairy and agricultural specialist in several locations in Colorado, Wyoming and Iowa, and Ila taught high school English and Latin. Lael graduated from high school at Corydon, Iowa and attended Iowa State University at Ames where she graduated with a combined major in Home Economics and Math. She was honored to be chosen the Home Economics student hostess for the college president, Dr. Friley, and to live in the President’s mansion. In 1971, she obtained a Masters Degree in Elementary Counseling at North Texas State University in Denton, TX.
She met the love of her life, Charles Edward Wellington, in 1952 during her first year of teaching at Mt Pleasant, Iowa. They married on June 27, 1953 and were together 58 years. Two children were born to this union—Jennifer Lynn in 1957 and Greg Eliot in 1959. Charles was a school administrator and in that capacity took jobs in Iowa, La Baule, France, Illinois, Oregon, Colorado, Arizona and Texas—a total of 27 relocations! The couple spent their retirement years in Phoenix, AZ and Rio Rancho, NM.
Lael and Charles were adventurers … Together they enjoyed picnicking, fishing, car trips and exploring the woods, abandoned homesteads and mines. A youthful Lael enjoyed ponies, ice skating, singing, basketball, swimming and walking fields with her father. She was accomplished at sewing, knitting, needlework, craft painting and macramé. She was a master correspondent and particularly good at remembering birthdays. She was keenly interested in family history and kept up with goings on across the country.
Until age 91, she was a model participant in Silver Sneakers exercise programs. She logged hundreds of miles across New Mexico with other hikers from the Meadowlark Senior Center and with her buddies along the Thompson Fenceline trail in Rio Rancho. She coordinated regular game nights with community friends and was known to be wickedly competitive. She was a seasoned world traveler, having visited Wales, Scotland, England, Ireland, Mexico, Canada, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Spain, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Dubai.
Lael was a committed Christian and a founding member of High Desert United Methodist Church in Rio Rancho. She helped start a food pantry ministry there. She volunteered as a church and literacy program librarian in various places. She was an ardent advocate for reading and literacy and enjoyed tutoring kids. She was a lifelong member of the sisterhood of P.E.O., and in 1969, she helped found Chapter FU of Summit County, Colorado.
Lael was preceded in death by her parents, her husband Charles and sister Ruth Jaeckel. She is survived by her sister Kay Weede of Tucson, AZ, daughter Jennifer of Santa Fe, NM, son Greg (Barb) of Goodyear, AZ, grandchildren Micah W. Miller, Pierre G. Miller, Kent E. Wellington and Laura J. Wellington and many beloved nephews, nieces and cousins.
In lieu of flowers, Lael requested that donations be made to High Desert Methodist Church, Rio Rancho, NM—go to highdesertumc.org. Alternatively, memorial donations may be made to The Nature Conservancy, designating one of her favorite states- Iowa or New Mexico- go to nature.org.
A memorial service celebrating her vibrant life will be held at High Desert United Methodist in Rio Rancho, NM on Thursday, September 28th at 4 pm with a potluck to follow.