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The Reverend Dr. John Willard Johnson

April 25, 2019

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The Reverend Doctor John Willard “Jack” Johnson, 94, passed away peacefully at his home on Thursday, April 25, 2019.

He was the Founding Minister (1968-1990) and, later, Minister Emeritus of Timberlake Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Lynchburg.

Jack was born in Steubenville, Ohio, to the Reverend Ben S. and Virginia Hall Johnson.  The fourth of six children, he grew up in Bluefield, West Virginia, before his family moved to Silver Spring, Maryland.

Jack graduated from Lynchburg College on June 3, 1946 and was ordained that same day as a Minister of The Christian Church – Disciples of Christ, at the age of 22.  He graduated from Yale Divinity School in 1949.  Jack worked at the New Haven Hospital in Connecticut and then served as a missionary to Jamaica.

Reverend Johnson served many churches throughout Virginia over the years.  He was the Senior Minister of First Christian Church of Richlands (1949-54) when he headed to the University of Virginia for graduate education courses in the summer of 1953.  It was there that he met his future bride, Mary Frances Shuler, who was also studying graduate education courses.  Soon the young minister was teaching psychology and economics at Richlands High School while also pastoring his church.

Jack and Mary Frances were married that November on a snowy day at First Christian Church of Shenandoah (Virginia).

The young pastor was soon called by the Disciples of Christ denomination to become the Founding Minister of Diamond Springs Christian Church in Norfolk (now Chalice Christian Church).  He served there from 1954 to 1962.

The family next moved to Roanoke, where Jack was the Senior Minister of Bethany Christian Church (1962-68).

In 1968, Reverend Johnson was chosen to be the organizing pastor of the soon-to-be-formed Timberlake Christian Church in Lynchburg.  During his 22 years at TCC, Jack earned his Doctorate of Ministry degree from Saint Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore in 1985.

After pastoring TCC for 22 years, Jack retired in 1990.  He then served as Relocation Minister at the Disciples of Christ Regional Office in Lynchburg for the next five years.

Dr. Johnson is survived by his devoted wife of 65 years, Mary Shuler Johnson; his beloved children, John Mark “Journey” (Sharon) of Midlothian, David of Lynchburg, Anne of Florida, and Paul (Betsy) of Charlottesville.  He was the loving grandfather of Jeni, Bobby, Katie, and Jack II; Tim, Ben, and Joseph; Augusta (Augie), and Paul II.  He enjoyed spending time with his great grandchildren, Rylan, Laney, Abbey, and Layton.

Jack is also survived by his youngest sister, Janet Johnson Riley and her husband, the Reverend Leon Riley, of Indianapolis; many brothers- and sisters-in-law, and a host of nieces, nephews, and their children.

Jack was beloved by his family, friends, church members, and neighbors.  He was a true friend and a sympathetic listener.  Jack was kind, generous, encouraging, upbeat, and positive.

A resident of Lynchburg for 50 years, Jack was very active in the community.  He served as President of the Lynchburg College Alumni Association, President of Mended Hearts (Lynchburg Chapter and District President), Chairman of the Campbell County Library Board, and served on the Board of Meals on Wheels.  Jack was Co-President of his children’s PTA in Campbell County.  Jack and Mary Frances were Co-Presidents of their PTA in Roanoke.

Dr. Johnson was invited by legislators to pray before the Virginia General Assembly at the State Capitol in Richmond on at least two occasions.  Lynchburg College honored him with the Hopwood Award for Distinguished Alumni.

Jack enjoyed being with people, church activities, reading, writing, watching Jeopardy! with his children, and traveling.  He loved visiting friends and family and attending national conventions of Mended Hearts and of The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  His travels took him to London, Alaska, Hawaii, Toronto, and to visit his daughter in Paris.

Jack’s life was full of accomplishments and serving others.  Last year, at the age of 93, he was asked, “What was the biggest accomplishment of your life?”  Without hesitation, he answered, “Having children.”

Funeral services and a Celebration of Jack’s Life will be held at Timberlake Christian Church this Sunday, May 5, at 2 p.m.  A reception will follow.

Graveside Service will be held on Monday, May 6, at 11 a.m. at Virginia Memorial Park, Forest.  The Rev. Dr. Robert E. Mooty and the Rev. Ann B. Shepherd of TCC will officiate.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the John W. Johnson Scholarship Fund (for college students) at Timberlake Christian Church, 20261 Lynchburg Highway, Lynchburg, Virginia 24502.

The Johnson Family wishes to thank everyone who has shown their love, kindness, and support as we mourn the passing of our beloved Jack/Dad.

Tharp Funeral Home & Crematory, Lynchburg, is assisting the family.

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