Although she never gave herself credit for the warmth and depth of her poetry, Suzanne Johnson was expressive and personal in her writing. This is one of her poems that speaks of her life as a young girl:
Where I'm From
By Suzanne Johnson
I'm from hollyhocks and tobacco fields
a flower with pink petals to make a doll
a field to harrow and harvest.
I'm from a running brook and a rock
so large at the top of the hill—
a place to hide from the world
or a spot to bask in the sun.
A creek with tree roots protruding from banks
where we can pretend and play house.
I'm from feed sack skirts and hand-me-down dresses—
my mother sits at her treadle sewing machine all night
stitching me something to wear to my piano recital.
My cousin brings me her hand-smocked dresses
I wish they were new . . .
It was a time before the word "simplicity" was used.
I'm from a glass jar full of lightening bugs
snow cream made from freshly fallen snow
from where a toy was made from a broken wheelbarrow . . .
This poem is from Suzanne's small book entitled Songs from Highland County. Suzanne loved words and she loved music, including gospel music and the hymns of Bill and Gloria Gaither. They spoke deeply to her. Poems and music gave her joy, calm, and peace.
She also loved her Quaker Meeting. Suzanne served as a member of Ministry and Counsel; the Peace and Social Concerns Committee; and the Young Friends Committee. She acted as clerk of the Flowers and Cards Committee and also served as Quaker Knoll Camp representative, Music Coordinator, and our Meeting’s representative to Wilmington Yearly Meeting's Permanent Board. She was always willing to play the piano whenever anyone requested a hymn during worship. For so many Christmas Even celebrations, she and Lola Chaney would bring worshipers to tears with their organ-piano duet of O Holy Night. She also attended the School of the Spirit and was a leader and facilitator in the Alternatives to Violence Program.
Suzanne was a simple person with a deep faith. She was a strong, faithful, and loyal friend to all she met. She always brought positive and warm greetings to everyone. Her voice was soft and she was slight of build, but her heart was much bigger than her physical being. Without calling attention to herself, she quietly served the many needs of her Meeting and community. (The residents at Tender Mercies, one our our community ministries, will never forget her meatloaf!)
Even though she was quiet, her soul and heart were loud for peace and justice. She and her husband Charlie came to Quakers through their early involvement in other peace churches, including the Church of the Brethren. She was a counselor to all who needed someone with a caring ear, and although small, her shoulders were comforting when needed. Few knew that she kept in communication with some of our Young Friends once they were grown, always keeping up with their activities through Facebook.
She was an avid reader and belonged to two local book clubs. She enjoyed traveling and visited Cuba. She also spent many hours volunteering at Hospice of Cincinnati and Meals on Wheels, and especially loved being in the Big Sister/Little Sister program with Renee.
Her place during worship was on a bench in the Meeting room nearest to the piano. That place is vacant now, but we will always think of her sitting there, as we reflect on this anonymous quote:
A friend is someone we turn to when our spirits need a lift.
A friend is someone we treasure, for friendship is a gift.
A friend is someone who fills our lives with beauty, joy, and grace.
A friend makes the world we live in a better and happier place.
Suzanne was that friend to all of us!
Suzanne Johnson was born in 1938 to Richard and Gladys Peabody in Rainsboro, Ohio. She was the beloved wife of Charles (Charlie) Johnson and the loving mother of Amy Johnson, Greg Johnson, Rachel (Brent) Smith, and Emily Spencer. She passed away on May 18, 2020, and was buried next to Charlie in Jamestown, New York.