Cover photo for Sally (Johnson) Ketcham's Obituary
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Sally (Johnson) Ketcham

March 11, 1928 — May 1, 2023

Sally (Johnson) Ketcham

Sally Ann Johnson Ketcham

March 11, 1928 – May 1, 2023

Sally Ann Johnson Ketcham, the only child of Sallie Marshall and William R. Johnson, was born March 11, 1928. She spent her happy childhood in Madison, Nebraska, sheltering stray cats, reading voraciously, and climbing apple trees. In 1946, she postponed her Regents Scholarship at the University of Nebraska to attend Colorado Women’s College for a year in order “to see the west and learn to ski.” She received a bachelor’s degree in history and archaeology (1950) and a master’s degree in history (1956) from UNL.

In 1951, she joined the Nebraska State Historical Society as Marvin Kivett’s precocious curator of history. She also wrote and hosted the live, pioneering television program “Yesteryear in Nebraska.” In Lincoln, her friends and fellow travelers included Louise Pound, Mari Sandoz, Mildred R. Bennett, and Elsie Cather. Ketcham’s original and groundbreaking research on military life and the American west is still utilized today.

By the early 1960s, she was preparing to join the staff of the Smithsonian when she met and married Nebraskan Richard W. Ketcham, a civil and hydraulic engineer whose career with the federal government took the couple to San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Omaha, and Fort Collins, CO. Just prior to her marriage, she had begun working as a research specialist, curator, and contractor with the US National Park Service. Sally researched and wrote the restoration and furnishing plans for dozens of NPS historic sites, among them: Fort Laramie, Frederick Douglass’s birthplace, Fort Scott in Kansas, John Muir’s home, President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Boyhood Home, Harper’s Ferry, and the Elias Hasket Derby House in Salem, MA. She would continue to work with the NPS for over two decades.

She served as restoration chairman of the General Crook House at Fort Omaha and the Avery House in Fort Collins. She was on the original steering committee of the Romero House/Museo de las Tres Colonias in Fort Collins. She was the recipient of the Douglas County Historical Society’s Distinguished Service Award, the City of Fort Collins Award of Excellence, the Superior Service Award of the National Park Service, and the Poudre Landmarks Foundation’s Outstanding Community Service Award.

Sally Ketcham’s Greatest Generation values – her modesty, courtesy, and quiet determination – were as well-known as the depth and breadth of her knowledge. She went out to meet the world with kindness, curiosity, and genuine good will. Throughout her life, she was “Mom” to dozens of individuals – the young and not-so-young alike. She traveled the world well into her 90s but was happiest at Idlewild, her grandparents’ summer cottage on the banks of Spirit Lake, Iowa. She was a 75-year member of PEO, the Delta Gamma Sorority, and a member of the American Association of University Women.

Preceded in death by her husband, Richard. Survivors include daughter Sallie Jane Ketcham (Steven Pumilia) and son William Ketcham (Kami). Grandchildren Richard (Jessica) and Marianne Pumilia; Katherine and Connor Ketcham. Great-grandchildren Anne, Emily, and Sarah Pumilia.

Not long before Sally Ketcham departed for the Undiscovered Country, an emotional nurse pulled the family aside. “She is a very great lady,” she said unequivocally. “She has a beautiful soul.”

Her family extends heartfelt thanks the entire staff of Deephaven Woods Senior Living, Bluestone Physician Services, and Brighton Hospice.

The Rite of Christian Burial and interment will be held at the Atlantic Cemetery in Atlantic, Iowa on Monday, May 8, 2023 at 11:30 am.

Roland Funeral Service is caring for Sally’s family and her arrangements.  Condolences may be left at

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Sally (Johnson) Ketcham, please visit our flower store.

Past Services

Graveside Service

Monday, May 8, 2023

Starts at 11:30 am

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