This is my Mom.

This is Linda's Mom.

My mom died in February.  The funeral was lovely and personal, and the obituary my brother wrote was nice too, but obituaries are short and to the point; there’s a lot that isn’t said.

Barbara May Richardson Johnson was quite the lady. Always more than a bit chatty, she quieted in her later years due to progressive dementia. She maintained her outward beauty to the end – her jewelry collection was evidence, and her clothing choices were always coordinated and colorful. But the frustrating symptoms of dementia prevented us from seeing the artistic side of her personality. So I wanted to write some important things down about my mom, so I wouldn’t forget.

Barb was born in 1934 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The depression years were tough on her birth parents, and her grandparents (Richardson) became her adoptive parents. Her family operated a small cherry orchard outside the factory town of Ionia, Michigan; but for financial reasons, the family moved to Pasadena, California for a short time. Mom loved to make sure everyone knew she was enrolled in the same tap-dance school that Shirley Temple attended.

The Richardson family made their way back to Ionia, where Mom graduated high school. Her plan was to attend the Kendall School of Art in Grand Rapids, Michigan and become an interior designer. But her plans were derailed shortly after graduation. She was in a horrible car accident and was hospitalized for six weeks with a lengthy recovery at home. She ended up going to business school instead of art school and worked in the credit department at the Grand Rapids Sears & Roebuck. There she met Paul Johnson. They fell head over heels for each other and were engaged within three weeks.

A couple in love ’til the end.

Really, what I want you to know about my mom was that she was still an artist. Art school would have been great, but life circumstances took over. Painting and stitching were fit in between all the other stuff – kids, church, family business, etc. She was known to have knit a 1960's mohair sweater and did some stitch work.

She was an accomplished cook and set an impressive table (my sister Kris and I still have friendly competitions with our holiday tables, and we’ve passed it on to our daughters). But Mom’s artistic legacy lies in her artwork, so I’ll leave you with a few images that I knew she was proud to say were hers.

And because you need to see this classic family photo.



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