A life centered on church, family
A funeral service for Opal Thresa Johnson, who died March 6, 2011, was held last Saturday at the Highland Christian Center.
She was born on April 20, 1926, to Herbert and Mary Ella Webster in Atlanta, Texas, the youngest of eight children. Her family called her Boots.
At the age of 18, when her mother passed away, she moved with her oldest sister, Leola Lawson and her family, to Oregon; first to Vanport in 1944, then to LaGrande. In 1946, she moved to Portland where she lived with her sister, Lula Mae Cook. Later, her sister Melvina Giles moved to Portland, followed by many of her oldest brother’s children, her father Hebert, and finally her brother O. L.
Opal began worked in the Oregon shipyards as a young woman. She later became a housekeeper and ended her working career with the Portland Progress House where she cooked for over 25 years.
In June 1961, Opal married Rev. Samuel Johnson, then Sergeant Johnson of the U.S. Army who was stationed at Fort Lewis, Wash., and served in the Korean War. To this union brought three children. Whatever the kids did, she was involved with – good or bad. Neither she nor Sam believed in sitting idle so the family was always on the go; trips to Tacoma, the St. Paul Rodeo, the Oregon Coast, family gatherings, and church.
Church and family was Sister Johnson’s life and in most cases one couldn’t differentiate between the two. When first moving to Portland she became a member of Mt. Olive Church of God in Christ where she was saved and filled with the Holy Ghost under the leadership of Pastor H.D. Williams.
As Mt. Olive grew, she moved into the “big church,” Williams Temple, where she continued to serve under Pastor Williams, Pastor Rand, and Pastor Walker. There were not too many positions in the church that Sis. Johnson did not hold – Sunday School teacher, kitchen committee, choir president, musician, church clerk, and Women’s Day coordinator.
When Rev. Johnson was called to pastor Highland United Church of Christ, Sis. Johnson did not want to leave Williams Temple and for over 10 years she (and the children) attended both churches and participated in all the church activities. Even after moving to Highland full time, she always let it be known that she held duel memberships at both churches.
At Highland, she worked as the youth choir director, served on the kitchen committee, was a Sunday School teacher, church custodian, served on the UCC Women’s Board, and coordinated the community Thanksgiving Dinners.
When her husband passed away in 1981, Mother Johnson mourned her loss, then got started again. She served faithfully under Pastor Dorsey and Pastor Prescod and worked to make the cornerstone programs at Highland stronger. The Thanksgiving Dinner thrived; she led the Mission and Outreach Department, and the Sam Johnson Memorial Scholarship Fund was created. As a member of the Highland Executive Board she was a supporter of Pastor Hardy’s appointment and was a true follower of his leadership until her death.
She leaves to love and treasure her memories, two sons, Samuel Jr. (Connie) and Richard; daughter, Vera Watson (Leonard); grandchildren, Michael Lee (Sarah), Robert Lee (Kesha), Chris Jones II, Nicole Atkinson (Seth), Jeremy Johnson, December Watson; and great grandchildren Reyshawn Atkinson, Neela Thresa Atkinson, Lynsi Lee, Laci Lee, Josie Lee, and Jake Lee.
She also leaves her niece, sister and best friend Ruth Peoples; loving in-laws George & Ophelia Murry, Bernis & Betty Dorsey, Rebecca Griffith-Ross; Godchildren Zoe Wilson-Price, Chris Fridge, Daniel Martin, Dennielle Martin, Robert Martin; two church families; four generations of nieces and nephews; and the Lord only knows how many folks that called her friend.
Arrangements entrusted to Terry Family Funeral Home.