Reviving a family holiday tradition: Mitchell man decorates home in honor of late parents

“I just found the best way to heal that wound is to dive into it and honor their memory by going all out on Christmas decorating,” said Timm Johnson, who resides along 254th Street, west of Mitchell.

Holiday lights fill the Johnson residence on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022, at 40590 254th Street in Mitchell.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic
We are part of The Trust Project.

MITCHELL — For Timm Johnson, decorating his home with Christmas lights goes much deeper than spreading holiday cheer.

When December arrives, Johnson turns his rural Mitchell home into a winter wonderland in honor of his late mother and father. With over 4,000 feet of Christmas lights speckled across his home and yard, it’s hard to miss Johnson’s brightly lit farmhouse that sits along 254th Street near the Davison County Fairgrounds.

Timm Johnson stands in the snow on his porch in front of a Christmas tree on Friday, Dec. 16, 2022, in Mitchell.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

“I try to make it big and bright enough that you can see it from the highways. When I send pictures of the farm house all decked out to my sister, she will always say, ‘Mom and dad would be so proud,’” Johnson said.

Johnson’s mother and father were known for their festive spirit during the Christmas season. As Johnson put it, his siblings would joke during the holidays and say “Christmas came and threw up all over the house.”

But the lights went dark several decades ago when Johnson’s parents were killed in a car crash. Their sudden death left a hole in the hearts of the family and made the holidays hard on Johnson, who was in his early 20s at the time of the tragedy.


Although it would be hard to believe judging by the look of his decked-out home, there was a time Johnson didn’t have the Christmas spirit he has today. While trying to cope with the loss of his beloved parents, Johnson shied away from decorating.

The Mentele residence is located at 715 Lynette Place in Mitchell.

“It was hard losing my parents at such a young age. After my parents passed, I was pretty bitter about the holidays for a long time. I had the 'bah-humbug' attitude for a while,” he said.

In the midst of coping with the loss of his beloved parents, Johnson had a change of heart on Christmas decorating. The once self-declared bah-humbug holiday guy felt the best way to honor his parents was to keep their rich holiday spirit alive.

With a new outlook on the holidays, Johnson, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Christmas, was revived.

“I just found the best way to heal that wound is to dive into it and honor their memory by going all out on Christmas decorating,” Johnson said.

Holiday lights are stung across the treeline of the Johnson residence on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022, at 40590 254th Street in Mitchell.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

No matter where Johnson is residing, whether it’s a house or apartment, he’s known for turning his residence into a bright winter wonderland.

The rural Mitchell house has provided his best canvas yet for displaying his decorating skills. Standing next to the brightly lit house are a tractor speckled in lights and a large candy cane.

“It’s been a work in progress. I’ve started adding more to it each year, and it is really starting to come together,” Johnson said.


His Christmas spirit has spread into the neighboring homes, as Johnson said his house has introduced nearby residents each year.

“Some would joke and tell me I need to tone it down some years since I’m making them look bad,” Johnson laughed.

Check out Rodney Tiede's holiday lights at 500 W. Ninth Ave. in Mitchell.

While keeping his parents legacy alive drives Johnson to spend more than a week and plenty of money on turning his home into a Christmas postcard, he said spreading holiday joy can bring a shot of happiness into someone’s life who may be struggling with life’s obstacles like Johnson has experienced.

“If I can make anyone who is having a rough time smile when they drive by, it makes me feel good knowing that I’m keeping spirits up,” he said.

Drive by and check out the 20-foot Santa at 509 E. Fourth Ave. in Mitchell.

Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
What To Read Next
Breaking News
Plans do not include athletic facility upgrades, bond issue to complete project to be discussed
The organization's board of directors announced the hire on Tuesday afternoon.
Special meeting to cover base bids and alternatives
Members Only
During the sentencing hearing, the judge presiding over the child pornography case that implicated David Suarez, 24, called it "unusual" and "unique."