Waconia funeral planned for 86-year-old marathoner Joy Johnson


Family members and friends say Joy Johnson wanted to keep running until she died. And her sister says Johnson died happily this week, the day after the 86-year-old became the oldest person to finish the New York City Marathon.

The Star Tribune reports a funeral will be held in her hometown of Waconia. The newspaper says Johnson was later a gym teacher in Duluth, before moving to northern California.

Sunday's race was her 25th straight New York City Marathon. As NBC reports, Johnson stumbled and fell at about mile 20, finished the race with a bandage on her head, and declined hospital treatment. The next morning she kept her tradition of visiting briefly with the Today show's Al Roker. She died in her sleep at her hotel that afternoon, Today says.

Her sister, 83-year-old Faith Anderson of Norwood Young America, accompanied Johnson to New York and told the New York Post: “She did what she wanted. She said 'If I can die running I’ll die happy.'” Anderson also tells the paper Johnson finished more than 70 marathons around the country but never ran on Sunday, which was reserved for church.

According to the Star Tribune, Johnson had run in Grandma's Marathon in Duluth as recently as 2011 and regularly took part in the January running of the Securian Frozen Half Marathon.

Johnson was an inspiration to many. Her daughter, Diana Boydston, told the San Jose Mercury News she's been fielding calls from well-wishers all over the country.

Boydston told Today: “I think she would be happy with this chain of events: to run her beloved New York marathon, talk to her buddy Al, be there with her sister Faith. She told everyone she loved them before the race, and she was at peace.”

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Next Up

Kyle Rudolph

Rudolph sends farewell to Vikings fans in Players Tribune piece

"Every season I played here, every game I played here — you all believed."

Megan Ryan

Star Tribune's Megan Ryan named new Twins beat reporter

Ryan replaces LaVelle E. Neal who is now in a columnist role.

minnetonka MME

Minnetonka in spotlight after teacher threatened for discussing Black trans woman

Parents and community members are calling on the district to do better and will hold a march prior to the school board meeting on Thursday.

Richard Pitino

Talk grows that this season will be Pitino's last at Gophers

A report says Pitino's tenure could be "down to his final games."

Screen Shot 2021-03-02 at 1.40.17 PM

Two gas trucks collide in Stearns County, neither explodes

The unlikely collision happened Monday afternoon.

unnamed (1)

MSP Airport expecting spring break to be busiest period since pandemic began

Passenger numbers will still be about a third lower than a year ago, though.

Target store

After bumper earnings, Target will accelerate new store openings

The retailer has revealed its plans for the next few years, which includes an investment in Minneapolis.

starbucks wayzata

100% plant-based restaurant coming to Wayzata this spring

The restaurant has plans to add additional locations in Minnesota this summer and franchise nationwide.

Patric Richardson

'Laundry Evangelist' from St. Paul gets his own Discovery+ show

Patric Richardson has built a career around the appreciation and care of clothing.