Marjorie Johnson (April 18, 1921 – November 29, 2019)
Friday late afternoon in Chicago, my Mom passed away after a long and often valiant battle with the vagaries of old age. She grew up in Longview Texas on a farm that she helped her father defend from the Ku Klux Klan and other likeminded terrorists. She voted Barack Obama three times, once for Senate and twice for President. Her exasperation over his successor quite rightfully knew no bounds.
She came to Chicago in the late 30s and a few years later met my Dad at a University of Chicago dance. They married after he returned from the war and raised a family—three boys and a girl–on the city’s South Side, relocating to Dallas when I was 14 and my siblings were adults in 1974. She worked at AKA and then she held series of Office Manager positions at prestigious academic institutions including the University of Chicago, Southern Methodist University and the University of Texas at Dallas. Upon retiring in her 70s, she took up fitness and was featured in the local Dallas papers for her weightlifting exploits.
In 2008, she survived six hours of surgery to remove a cancerous growth on one of her lungs, but afterward, she was less active. She settled for a routine that was frequently MSNBC by day and NBA by night though she strongly preferred Maddow to the current iteration of the Chicago Bulls. She closely followed the resistance and referred to the members of the squad by their first names. She also referred to key 2020 Senate candidates as Jamie, Amy and Mark.
She was a fiercely independent woman, and increasingly in recent years her body would no longer facilitate her independence. I traveled to Chicago every May to cook Mother’s Day dinner, usually some preparation of sea scallops. Aware that she might not be around to celebrate Mother’s Day 2020, I traveled there in October, one last time to season shellfish with lemon, honey and thyme. I feared I’d be a mess on the CTA going to O’Hare after saying goodbye for what would be the last time. Not at all, I was proud and eager to show the world even more of the Marjorie Johnson spirit than I have so far.