Eric John Johanson 姚漢聲 (1899-1999) and

Nettie Roberta Hare Johanson (1899-1981)

by Bruce W. Lo, 2015

Basic Biographical Information

Eric John Johanson Sr., 姚漢聲, was born in Melbourne on May 31, 1899, and died in Cooranbong, NSW, Australia on November 13, 1999, reaching the age of 100. Nettie Roberta Hare was born on July 23, 1899 in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia and died on April 27, 1981 in Cooranbong.

Parentage: Eric Johanson's parents were Johan Johanson of Faaborg, Denmark and Faith Omer of London, England. Nettie Johanson's parents were Pastor Robert and Mrs. Henrietta Hare.

Siblings: Eric J. was the fourth child of three boys and three girls in the Johanson family: Mabel Stacey, Walter Johanson, Greta Barham, Eric Johanson, Bertram Johanson, and Thelma Rosendahl. Nettie Hare was the fourth of five children in the Hare family: Reuben Hare, Eric B hare, Ruth Lane, Nettie Johanson, and Enid Wilkinson.

Marriage: Eric Johanson married Nettie Hare in Shanghai, on Christmas day, 25 December 1919. They were together for 61 years. After Nettie died in 1981, Eric married Vera Salisbury in 1983.

Children: Together, Eric and Nettie Johanson had five children. From eldest to youngest, they were: Eric J. Jr, Oran-Lynn, Bobbie-Mae, James, and Beth.

Summary of Service: Began work at age 14 at the Sign Publishing House at Warburton in 1913. Called to go to Hankow, China, as a stenographer-bookkeeper for the North China Union Mission in 1917. Then later became the Secretary-Treasurer of the East China Union Mission. In 1924, Eric Johanson was called to serve as the Secretary-Treasurer of the Malayan-Sian Union Mission in Singapore. In 1934 he also became the representative of Sanitarium Health Food Company in Southeast Asia. On return to Australia in 1938, Eric Johanson became the President of South Australian Conference, and then in 1942 became South New Zealand Conference President. In 1944 He became the Manager of the Signs Publishing Company in Warburton, Victoria. In 1946, he was called to be an Assistant Treasurer at the General Conference of SDA, and later became the Statistical Secretary. Eric Johanson returned to Australia in 1952 as Associated Secretary and later as Treasurer for 14 years. He retired in 1968 after 54 years of service for the church.

Figure 1: Pastor Eric John Johanson (photo taken 1965) and Mrs Nettie Johanson (photo taken 1969)

Figure 2: Nettie Roberta Hare (later Mrs Johanson) during her graduation from Newcastle Conservatorium of Music in 1917.

Family Background

姚漢聲 Eric J. Johnson's father, Johan Marius Johanson was born in Faaborg, Denmark in 1860, who met and married Faith Omer of London, England. The couple emigrated to Tasmania around 1890, where they first came into contact with some of Adventist literature. In 1891 they began to keep the Holy Sabbath, and later on joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He gave up his cabinet making business and the couple entered into colporteur ministry, which they were very successful.

Soon, Johan Marius Johanson's abilities were recognized by the church leaders. He was asked to take up various leadership positions including: Manager of the Signs Publishing Company in Warburton, Victoria; Principal of the Australasian Missionary College at Cooranbong, NSW; President of the Union Missions in Japan, Korea, and Manchuria; and Manager of Australasian Conference Association, in division headquarter at Wahroonga.

Johan Marius and Faith Johanson had six children three boys and three girls - from oldest to youngest they were: Mabel, Walter, Gretta, Eric, Bertram, and Thelma. Eric J. Johanson was the second son and the fourth child.

Early Years

Eric J. Johanson was born in Melbourne on 31 May 1899. At the age of 6, his family moved to Warburton, Victoria, where his father, Johan Marius Johanson, became the Manager of the Signs Publishing Company. Eric attended the Warburton School there, but left school at age 14 and went to work at the office of Signs Publishing Company. At age 17, Eric followed the family to move to Avondale (Cooranbong, NSW), where his father took charge of Australasian Missionary College. There Eric worked at the business office of the College.

While Eric was at Warburton, the family of Pastor Robert Hare moved into a house across the road from the Johanson's. Eric became very friendly with Nettie Roberta Hare, one of the Hare's daughters. She was only 15 at the time. In time, both families moved to Cooranbong, New South Wales. Nettie completed the teacher training course, while Eric continued to work at the College business office. Upon graduation, Nettie was appointed the first teacher of the school at Glen Huon, Tasmania (Figure 2).

The China Years

From 1915 to 1919, the Australian Union Conference was part of the Asiatic Division which also took in the Far East, India, Ceylon, Burma, China, Japan, and Chosen (Korea). In 1917, Eric's father, Johan Marius Johanson, was called to be the President of the Japan-Chosen-Manchuria Union Conference. In the same year, Eric J. Johanson, at the age of 18, was called to Hankow, Hubie, China to be the Stenographer-bookeeper of the North China Union Conference. Eric's ability and hard work were soon demonstrated when he brought down his first trial balance with only 1 cent out.

Those were difficult times in China, as the country emerged from the old feudal system to young nationhood and many regions were blundered by warlords. But the Adventist mission continued to grow among the population.

Before leaving Australia, Eric and Nettie were engaged. Their desire was to get married as soon as they can get together. After two years of teaching at Glen Huon, Nettie responded to Eric's call and decided to go to China to join her fiance. Some of the folks at the China Mission compound thought they would give this young Aussie some matronly advice about when to marry after two years of absence from each other. Eric recalled Mrs. C.C. Cristler counseled him saying, "Before you get married, you must get to know your woman!" . But nothing could stop this red-blooded true Aussie, who thought to himself, "Know her? Why, I've known her since she was 15, and we are going to get married as soon as she arrives."

Nettie Hare was very popular on the ship on which she took to go to China, because she entertained fellow passengers with beautiful musics on her violin during the rather long voyage from Australia to China. As the ship sailed into Shanghai harbor on Christmas day, 25 December 1919, who other than Eric J. Johanson would be the first man to jump aboard from a sampan, to welcome her? He then took her to a Church of England Cathedral in Shanghai, to have their marriage performed by the Dean of the Cathedral, whom Eric had previously contacted and obtained his consent to perform the wedding. All that could be remembered of the service was the Dean's advice "to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth!", according to Thelma, Eric's sister, who recalled many years later.1

Everything went perfectly for Eric and Nettie on their wedding day, 25 Dec 1919 - the Anglican Dean did the marriage honors, the British Consulate waived the usual two-week requirement for marriage bans, and a fellow worker, Gjording, allowed the newly wedded to stay in his house for a two-week honey moon, while he himself went away on work assignment.

When Eric J. Johanson returned to the Mission Compound and presented his "wife" to the folks there, many were caught by surprise (Figure 3). All except H.M. Blunden, another fellow Australian worker in the Mission Office, with whom Eric had shared his plan of marriage.

From the Stenographer-Bookkeeper position, Eric J. Johanson was called to be the President of the East China Union Mission in Shanghai. It was in Shanghai that his first son, Eric J. Johanson Jr. was born (Figure 4). In all Eric J. Johanson Sr. and his wife Nettie worked in China for seven years. They returned to Australia for furlough in 1924.

Years later, Bobbie-Mae Johanson, their third child, recalled her father told her of his experience while the family were in the Yen Chang Mission compound, he visited the ancient city of Lo Yan Ho. On a section of the old city wall was inscribed the story of the wise men of the Christmas story. Because the writing was so old that they rubbed lead on the writing in order to read it3.

Singapore and Southeast Asia

At the end of their furlough, Eric J. Sr. and Nettie Johanson returned to the orient to Singapore in 1924, to became the Secretary-Treasurer of the Malay-Sian Union Mission, which took into the states of Malaya, Borneo, Celebes, French Indo-China, and Indonesia. In addition to taking care of the office and auditing work at the Union Office, Eric J. Johanson Sr. also looked after the Singapore Church, combining pastoral ministry with office duties. It was in Singapore that their second son, Oran-Lynn, and their first daughter, Bobbie-Mae, were born (Figures 6, 7). They now had three children: Eric J. Jr., Oran-Lynn and Bobbie-Mae. The Johanson's were in Southeast Asia for about 14 years.

In around 1934 the brethern thought it would be a good idea to have someone to represent Sanitarium Health Food Company in Southeast Asia to market their products to the people there. Eric J. Johanson Sr. was chosen as the representative. After returning to Australia briefly for training, Eric J. Johnason Sr. resumed his Secretary-Treasurership at the Malay-Sian Union Office, and at the same time engaged in a vigorous campaign to promote Sanitarium Health Food products to the Southeast Asian market. He was out and about and made many sorties to merchants and grocers throughout the region-Singapore, Malaya, Ceylon, India and Java. When G.E. Adair was sent by SHF to Singapore to see how this young SHF representative was doing, he was thrilled to report what he found in Penang, Malaya,

"Weet-bix is already selling here and the grocers give it third place among the breakfast cereals. Instant Postum seems to be in most grocers and coffee shops...."5

Figure 3: Eric J. and Nettie Johanson, taken in Shanghai in 1920.

Figure 4: Eric and Nettie Johanson with eldest son, Eric J Junior in China (1924)

Figure 5: Three generations of Johansons: Eric John Sr, Eric John Jr, and Johan Marius taken 1924 in Australia.

Figure 6: Eric J. Sr, Eric J. Jr, Nettie, and Oran-Lynn in Singapore 1935.

Figure 7: Eric and Nettie Johanson with their eldest three children in Singapore: Eric J. Jr, Oran-Lynn, and Bobbie-Mae taken 1937.

Figure 8: A merchant van promoting Sanitarium Weet-Bix in Malaya (1935) Eric Johanson Sr, was the successful SHF company representative in Southeast Asia.

Back home among the Sanitarium Health Food Company circle, the success of Eric J. Johanson Sr. in Southeast Asia earned him the nickname, "Manager: Orient" (Figure 8). He recalled in one instance, how he actually went to one of the grocers and removed the British made "Weetabix" from the shelves and replaced them with what he regarded as the genuine product, Sanitarium "Weet-bix". In fact in India, to avoid confusing the customers, Weet-bix was once renamed "Joy Weets".

Including the 7 years in China, the Johanson's were missionaries in the Orient for about 21 years.

Australia and America

In 1938, Eric J. Johanson Sr. was called by the home field to be the President of South Australian Conference. On his way back to Australia, he was ordained by Pastors L.D. Lemke and R.A.R. Thrift in Perth. Eric and Nettie spent the next four years in Adelaide, where their fourth child, James, was born. Then in 1942 the family moved to Christchurch, New Zealand, where Eric J. Johanson Sr. became the President of South New Zealand Conference. It was in New Zealand that their last child, Beth, was born.

In 1944, Eric J. Johanson Sr was called back to Warburton, Victoria, where he became the Manager of the Signs Publishing Company - 34 years after his father, Johan Marius Johanson was the Manager there.

Figure 9: Eric and Nettie Johanson with three of their younger children in Maryland, USA when Eric was Assistant Treasurer at the General Conference of SDA (1951).

Figure 10: Eric and Nettie Johanson and their five children in 1976 take at Cooranbong on the occasion of granddaughter Darlene's wedding. This was probably the first and the last time that the whole family were together since returning from USA in 1952.

Second World War ended, and Eric was called to move his family to America, where he took up the position of Assistant Treasurer at General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist Church headquarter on August 16, 1946. Four years later in 1950, he was appointed Statistical Secretary of the General Conference (Figure 9).

In 1952, the Australasian Division issued a call to its talented son, Eric J. Johanson Sr., to return to the home country. In July 1952, the Johanson family moved to Wahroonga, New South Wales, and Eric became an Associate Secretary of the Division. And later on he became the Treasurer of the Australasian Division, a position he occupied for 14 years.

Retirement Years

Eric J. Johnson retired in 1971 at the age of 67, after 54 years of service to the Seventh-day Adventist Church - in Australia, China, Southeast Asia, and America. Eric and Nettie then moved to Nords Wharf and lived there for 12 years before moving to Kressville Retirement Village, Cooranbong, New South Wales (Figures 10, 11). Two years later, Eric's life partner, Nettie, died on April 27, 1981 at Charles Harrison Home. They were married for 61 years. In 1983, Eric J. Johanson married Vera Salisbury. Throughout his life, he was highly respected. His energy and his work capacity were admired by his colleagues and friends. On 13 November 1999, he was called to rest in the Lord after reaching the age of 100.

Figure 11: Eric and Nettie Johanson on their 60th wedding anniversary in Cooranbong, NSW, Australia (1979).

Figure 12: Eric J. Johanson Sr. with five children in 1983 in Cooranbong.

Figure 13: Eric J. Johanson celebrating his 100th birthday on May 31, 1999


    1. Johanson, Eric John Jr. (1983) "This is Your Life, E.J. Johanson", written for the occasion of EJJ's 89th birthday.

    2. Clarke, Nita (1990), "Life Sketch of E.J. Johanson", as told by E.J. Joshanson, Sr., and Bobbie-Mae Johanson, Kresville, Cooranbong, NSW, Australia.

    3. Johanson, Bobbie-Mae (2014), Email communication dated 16 December 2014, her recollection of her late father E.J. Johanson Sr. and her late mother Nettie Johanson.

    4. Garne, Geoffrey E. (1985) "Australians Aboard", Editorial, Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, October 26, 1985.

    5. Parr, Robert & Litster, Glynn (1995) What Hath God Wrought! The Sanitarium Health Food Company Story, Sanitarium Health Food Company: Berkeley Vale , New South Wales, Australia; (printed by Signs Publishing Company: Warburton, Victoria, Australia).

    6. Stocken, Beryl Johanson, (2004) Pioneer Stories: J.M. Johanson and Family, Private publication: Sydney, Australia.

Last updated 18/01/2015 by B. Lo