Dr. Mary Milroy

Doctors are some of the hardest working people, but even after being retired for almost two years, Dr. Mary Milroy is as busy as ever! Since her retirement in May of 2017, Dr. Milroy has fulfilled many of her life-long dreams. The first goal she accomplished was taking the Master Gardener course in the summer of 2017 accompanied by her husband, Dr. Dan Johnson. Fifty hours of volunteer work are required in addition to attending all the classes and passing a final exam. Dr. Milroy enthuses “It was a fantastic course, I learned so much. It was an opportunity to explore a field I’ve always been interested in, but never had time for.” Dr. Milroy shared that “Some people have difficulty finding ways to complete their volunteer hours, but in Yankton it’s so easy to do.” Dr. Milroy chose to become involved with the Seed Library which is hosted by the Yankton Community Library. This seed library is unique in that it’s the only one in South Dakota.

The seed library has recently resumed in January 2019. It includes all types of people including members of the Missouri Valley Garden Club. This group meets the second Tuesday of most months and volunteers give two educational presentations on different plant related topics. This is completely free of charge and open to the public. Indoor gardening was the January topic. Dr. Milroy shared information about water and plant nutrition. The seed library collaborates with the Federal Prison that provides many of the seeds. Free fruit, vegetable and flower seeds are available to the public through the program. “It’s a free service to encourage people to get involved in gardening.”

Another volunteer project was with the Yankton Boys and Girls Club. Assisted by other Master Gardner volunteers, they taught the children how to plant, care for, and harvest vegetables from the onsite garden. In the fall the children learned how to use the produce to prepare healthy meals. They made zucchini bread and wraps, vegetable lasagna, and soup. “The kids even shared the food they prepared for the center’s evening meal, and felt so proud because they could tell their friends that they had made it themselves.”

Dr. Milroy has shared her gardening knowledge beyond Yankton. When she was invited to visit the third and fourth graders at the Viborg Public school, Dr. Milroy taught the children about the beneficial Mason bees. Afterwards they did a project where everyone made Mason bee houses they could take home. Dr. Milroy has also travelled to Sioux Falls to do a presentation for a small garden club there on composting. This enthusiasm for gardening has spread to Dr. Milroy’s home as well. Big plans are in the works for changes in landscaping, new plants and trees around the family residence this spring.


While growing her green thumb Dr. Milroy hasn’t completely cast off her physician’s gloves. In addition to fulfilling another goal of publishing a book to help other professionals in the health care field, she has also been very active educating physician assistant students enrolled in the Sanford School of Medicine, University of South Dakota in Sioux Falls. In the fall Dr. Milroy participates with other doctors in teaching “The Art of Healing”. She also gives the breast lecture for the PA students every June. Dr. Milroy has served as the chair of the South Dakota Comprehensive Cancer Control Coalition and also is the chair and on the steering committee, as well

as the medical consultant for the All Women Count program for the state of South Dakota since their inception. “This is a fabulous program that does low and no cost breast and cervical screenings and provides resources for women throughout the whole state, based on federally established income guidelines. This is important because as we know, South Dakota is unfortunately one of the Medicaid non-expansion states that leave a lot of working women, with little or no insurance.

Besides all the volunteering, travel has been a priority for the doctors. Dr. Dan Johnson is not completely retired, however he still makes time for plenty of adventures with Mary. In the fall of 2017, three weeks were spent in Northern Italy. “We never even got south” she chuckles. “We just drove around and stayed for three or four days at a time at various air bed and breakfasts. We went to Venice. I loved Tuscany! We had such a really relaxing, fabulous time.” The couple’s youngest daughter, Amy, was on a hiatus in between career changes and had a two month trip planned for Bali. She invited her parents to come out and stay for a few weeks too. They all had a wonderful time exploring, hiking and scuba diving there. A third trip was with a tour group from Yankton that was led by Mike and Linda Stevens. This time they went to Israel. While in Israel they visited many biblical sites that brought the old teachings to life. They swam in the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. They walked around in Masada, Jordan and Jerusalem. They visited the Wailing Wall during the Friday evening Shabbat and experienced the special prayer service. An especially sacred and profound event was when Dr. Milroy and her husband were re-baptized in the Jordan River.

The spring and summer of 2018 found the doctors as busy as ever. Both were very involved in wedding and graduation preparations for their three other daughters. The oldest, Carrie, resides in Washington DC, but she and her now husband; Christopher Vondracek, wanted to get married in Yankton because they both had lots of family in the area. Dr. Milroy was “the boots on the ground” in charge of getting everything coordinated for the July 28th nuptials. The twins; Leslie and Laura Johnson, celebrated completing grad school from the University of Minnesota the month before. Laura graduated with her Masters of Business Administration, while Leslie graduated with a three year Masters degree in Landscape Architecture. Dr. Milroy and Dr. Dan Johnson are immensely proud of all their children.

The most recent news occurred in January of 2019. The doctors flew to Tanzania with a volunteer group called “Hope Ministries” that is based out of Elk Point, South Dakota. While there they worked at two Selian hospital in Arusha and Bugando hospital in Mwanza. They both operated “all the way through” their stay. Even after a two year break from performing surgery she jumped right in. Dr. Milroy states, “These were some of the toughest cases I’ve ever done in my life.” Even though one of the teaching hospitals had 1,000 beds, there was no mammography equipment available and many patients presented very late into their illnesses. She did surgery and lectured for students at teaching hospitals.

Dr. Milroy truly misses her patients and co-workers in the Yankton area, even two plus years after retiring. “In the beginning it was a big adjustment. I knew though, that the days of me standing on my feet all day long in the operating room couldn’t go on forever. I decided to take some time to do all the things I had been wanting to for so long. I wanted to be swimming in the ocean, going on hikes, and having adventures.” A word that Dr. Milroy uses consistently to describe whatever she was doing, whether having her hands in dirt, cooking with kids, performing surgery, or making wedding arrangements is FUN. It’s hard not to be inspired by meeting someone so incredibly energetic and joyful. Even though Dr. Milroy is way too busy having fun to let the grass grow under her feet, she is positively blooming with happiness, is basking in the sun and looking forward to an exciting future.