Georgann Johnson Prager Tenner
Georgann Johnson Prager Tenner
Georgann Johnson Prager Tenner, who, when she received the Distinguished Service Award from Luther College in 1970, was referred to as “Luther’s first lady of stage, screen, and television”, has died in Los Angeles, Calif. June 4, 2018, at the age of 91.

Georgann, or Jo as she was known growing up, was born Aug. 15, 1926, in Decorah to George Johnson, owner of Peter Johnson and Son Plumbing and Heating on Washington Street, and Helene Hjerleid Johnson, and was younger sister to Decorah’s own Phyllis Leseth. She graduated from Decorah High School, received her BA from Luther College, Class of ’48, and her Masters in Oratory from Northwestern University. She moved to New York City in 1950.

Georgann liked to say her only non-acting job was the two weeks she spent selling gloves at Lord & Taylor on Fifth Avenue. She quickly began appearing in roles on television including “Life Sentence” opposite James Dean (1953), and “Bang the Drum Slowly” (1956) with Paul Newman, as well as playing Tony Randall's wife in the comedy series “Mr. Peepers” (1952-1955). In 1953, Johnson was cast with her future husband actor Stanley Prager in the Broadway revival of “Room Service” starring Jack Lemon. They married in 1956 while Prager was starring as Prez in the original production of “The Pajama Game.”

In the 1960s, Johnson performed both on Broadway, starring opposite Henry Fonda in “Critic's Choice,” and in television, including episodes of “Dr. Kildare,” “The Doctors,” and “The Fugitive,” among others. The 1970s saw her add soap operas to her resume, with long running roles on both “Another World/Somerset” as Ellen Grant and “As the World Turns” as Jane Spencer.

Throughout the next 35 years, Johnson continued to work constantly, with recurring roles on such television shows as “All My Children,” “Our Family Honor,” “Wiseguy” to name just a few. She played the mother of actress Sharon Gless in “The Trials of Rosie O'Neill” and Jane Seymour in “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman”. Guest appearances include “Seinfeld,” “Thirtysomething,” “St. Elsewhere,” and many more. In film, Johnson was directed by, among others, Hal Ashby, Robert Altman and Martin Ritt.

Some years after Prager’s death in 1972, Johnson relocated to Los Angeles and, in 1981, married the Honorable Jack Tenner, a Superior Court Judge and civil rights activist. She said some of her happiest times as an actor were the improvisations she and her husband did at various political events to raise money. They remained married until his death in 2008.

Georgann’s love for Decorah was deep. Throughout her entire life she returned often to visit family, accept awards and introduce her children and husbands to the place she always loved best.

She is survived by her four daughters: Carol Prager, Annie Prager, Sally Seymour and Molly Boyll; three grandchildren: Hannah, Gabriel and Caroline; and two nieces, Cam Forde and Adrienne Coffeen, both of Decorah. She will be missed.