April 9, 2015 at 1:48 p.m.
Marlene is survived by daughters Debbie Greenhow, Lori (Jason) Bjork, sons Rick (Bonita) Carlson, Ron (Tina) Carlson; many grandchildren and great grandchildren and one great great grandson; her sister Romelle (Leslie) Croswell, brother Douglas (Jolene) Johnson; many nieces and nephews, and many, many cousins and friends.
Marlene Johnson grew up on a family farm that had a working sawmill. After graduating from Forest Lake High School in 1953, she married and moved to Lindstrom to start a family. In 1962, she began working at Plastic Products Company (PPC) as a bookkeeper and in 1972 she married her second husband, the company’s owner, Willard ”Smitty” Smith. Marlene was abruptly confronted with running PPC when Smitty died of cancer not long after their wedding. At the time of his death, PPC was experiencing hardship and declining sales. Marlene fought to keep the business afloat and to ensure that their employees did not lose their jobs.
Marlene turned the struggling company into a thriving, award-winning business, one that for years was repeatedly ranked as one of the nation’s largest woman-owned businesses. Today, PPC is one of North America's largest manufacturers of custom plastic, metal and ceramic injection molding.
When Marlene retired in 2013, the company had over $150 million in revenue and nearly 900 employees in plants located across the United States. Her impressive client list includes companies such as 3M, which PPC has served for more than 50 years. Upon her retirement, she sold the company to its employees.
Marlene was awarded membership into the highly exclusive Committee of 200 (C-200), an invitation-only membership organization of the world’s most successful women entrepreneurs and corporate leaders. She was one of the earliest members of the Minnesota NAWBO Chapter. She was inducted into the MN Women Business Owners Hall of Fame.
Over the past 50 years Marlene has not only served as a corporate leader, but she has been regularly involved in efforts to improve the community and has received numerous accolades. Her philanthropy is also celebrated by many area organizations. Marlene has a passion for preserving historic landmarks, protecting the environment and drawing tourists to the Chisago Lakes area. Her company also supports many school activities. Marlene funded the refurbishing and preservation of Lindstrom’s landmark water tower, now prominently featuring a Swedish coffee pot.
Funeral Services will be 11 a.m. Friday, April 10, 2015 at Trinity Lutheran Church in Lindstrom. Visitation 2-8 p.m. Thursday, April 9, at Trinity Lutheran Church and one hour prior to service at church. Interment at Glader Cemetery in Lindstrom. Memorials preferred to Ecumen/Parmly/Lifepointes 28210 Old Towne Rd., Chisago City, MN 55013. Arrangements by Grandstrand Funeral Home in Lindstrom, Minnesota. Condolences may be left online at www.grandstrand fh.com.
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