The Obituary of James E. Johnson Sr.
The son of the late William P. and Clarrissa (Hill) Johnson, he was born in Ridgway,Pennsylvania, (Elk County) on August 31, 1928. He was preceded in death by the love of his life, wife Betty, who died in 2017.
He is survived by his devoted children: James E. Johnson, Jr., and wife Martha (Dry) Johnson, David R. Johnson and wife Donna (Wessner) Johnson, both of Kutztown, Susan E. (Johnson) Derr and husband Dale G. Derr, of Spring Township, and Victoria A. (Johnson)Wessner and husband Gary A. Wessner, of Kempton, grandchildren: Sarah (Johnson) Kohler, Benjamin D. Johnson, Matthew A. Johnson, Jennifer A. (Johnson) Traylor, LCDR Alison (Derr) Maruca, USNR, Victoria A. Derr, Major James W. Derr, USMC, Kristina C.L. Wessner, Corinne E. (Wessner) Playdon, and Stephanie M. (Wessner) Stoudt, and great-grandchildren: Amelia and Margot Kohler, Adyson and Elliot Johnson, Morgan and Paige Traylor, Connor, Emma and Quinn Maruca, and Magnolia Stoudt, of whom he was so proud. A grandson, Michael A. Johnson, preceded him in death. He is also survived by one sister, Donna Luchs of Buckley, WA. He was preceded in death by his two sisters, Dorothy Smith and Beverle Benson, and brother Thomas H. Johnson, all of Rochester, NY, and brother William P. Johnson, Jr., of Ridgway, PA.
Jim was an elder, choir member and soloist for many years at St. John's UCC in Kutztown. He was a founding board member and later President of Saucony Cross of Kutztown, served on the Kutztown Planning Commission and was a member of Kutztown Public Library's Blue Ribbon Committee. He also was a member of the Kutztown American Legion Post and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post. He was a graduate of Ridgway High School, Class of 1946, and also a graduate of both Bucknell University and Penn State University, completing additional graduate work at Temple University and Lehigh University.
After six years on active duty in the Army Security Agency, he started his educational career teaching history and geography at Beaty Junior High School in Warren, PA. After five years as the high school principal at Tri-Valley High School in Hegins, PA, and Avon Grove High School in West Grove, PA, he and his family moved to Kutztown, where he served as Registrar, Associate Professor of Education, and then Assistant Dean of Academic Services at Kutztown University, retiring in 1987. While at the University, he created and ran an exchange program with several colleges and universities in England and Japan, encouraging local students to experience new people and places, with over 200 students participating in his program.
Dad was a prolific writer, with an active and creative imagination that resulted in hundreds of poems, a WWII novel based on the life of his dear friend Sam Gundy, and two published children's books, Once When I Was Only Three, and Gladstone. Jim loved to sing and always had a song in his heart, often singing a song for any occasion.
Jim and Betty, his wife of 65 years, were snowbirds to Colony Cove, Florida, from 1994-2010. In Florida, he served as both a member and President of the Pennsylvania Club, President of The Lakes Association, and was active in the local theatre company The Grey Pretenders, where he both acted and directed. He and his good friend, Max, also produced and directed several musical variety shows, to the delight of the entire community. The shows were sell-outs every year. Jim also sang lead in a men's quartet, The Cove Men, and loved to arrange numbers just for the group. He acted as MC at Saturday morning coffee at Colony Cove for many years.
Betty and Jim enjoyed the many cruises that they took to all parts of the world, organizing groups of up to thirty friends to share in their adventures, and he delighted in the wonderful memories those trips created. One fun memory he loved to share was the time he was able to get his entire group upgraded to First Class on their trip home. He and Betty moved to The Lutheran Home of Topton in 2014 where he was a beloved figure, with a quick wit for trivia, a clever idea for a new activity, or always ready to play bridge. He continued to plan, organize, and create all kinds of fun games for the family, and the family Christmas Party was the event of the season each year.
Our inspirational and beloved patriarch will forever be in our hearts, along with our precious mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. The family would especially like to thank Anne Stanton for her loving care of Dad for many years, and to Kaydee Lahai for her care of Dad in his final weeks.
Memorial Services for Dad will be held on Saturday, September 18, 2021 at 11:00 am at St. John's UCC Church, 257 W. Walnut St, Kutztown, PA. Burial will follow in Hope Cemetery, Kutztown.
Relatives and friends are invited to a visitation to be held, prior to the service, from 9:30 to 11:00 am at the church.
In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the St. John's United Church of Christ Memorial Fund c/o St. John's United Church of Christ, 257 Walnut Street, Kutztown, PA, 19530 or the Brandywine Community Library, 60 Tower Drive, Topton, PA, 19562.
Walbert Funeral Home & Cremation Services, PC, Fleetwood, is honored to be caring for James and his family. Online condolences may be offered at WalbertFuneralHome.com.
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