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The Life Story of John W. Johnson
The Lord knew what he was doing when He created one of His children, then He tossed away the mold.
Biblically speaking, the name John means “grace” and that is exactly how this child lived his life.
John W. Johnson born to Savannah Byrd and her high school sweetheart Manuel McCallister on March 4, 1932 in the State of Arkansas and later raised in Chicago Heights, Illinois. As a child, John was rather precocious; he loved to take things apart and then put them back together.
John was educated at Bloom Township High School, playing the viola in the school orchestra, and football. John lateranswered the call and joined the United States Army, serving as a medic during the Korean War. It was during this period that he met the love of his life in the person of Loretta Suggs and they married on July 17, 1954. Early on in their marriage, he attended trade school and trained as a machinist. John began a long and successful career as a machinist with the Ford Motor Company, becoming one of the first African Americans to work there as a skilled tradesman; working 40-plus years by the time he retired.
During this period, John and Loretta’s family began to grow. First, there was Kevin; a year later came Kenneth; then three years later, Denise, then Danette nearly two years later and then six years later, a surprise, a set of fraternal twins in Stephanie and Stephen. A full house INDEED!
John accepted Christ as his personal Savior at an early age. Since he was a young child, he was a member of the Portland Street Church of God in Christ. Later, in 1981, he joined the First Church of God in Harvey, IL, where he served as a trustee and a member of the Men’s Ministry.
John was industrious and knew how to work……and work hard he did! He worked six (6) days a week, resulting in his family calling him a workaholic because he never stopped working. John was an entrepreneur. He started his own business called “Zero Defects” where he made parts and shipped them throughout the country. He was a master at making parts on his lathe machine. He was a dreamer; he could conceptualize things in his head and will it to reality (or close to it) and he could come up with ideas and solutions to whatever problem you had. John built two (2) homes from the ground up. He loved to tear things down when he was “dreaming” up big ideas for his homes. Of course, this was to the inconvenience of everyone living in the house during those times of dreaming.
John loved cars; enjoyed going to church and getting dressedup. He enjoyed watching football and especially boxing during the fifties, sixties and seventies, when boxing was king. He loved the outdoors; gardening, and planting evergreens and trees; enlisting the aid of his children. He would have his lawn looking like a lush carpet that Major League Baseball or the National Football League would be proud to play on. He spent hours and days cultivating his plants and yard and took a lot of pride in what he accomplished. He invested most of his life either working at Ford or outdoors tending to his landscaping or home improvements.
John loved his family and especially his wife. Even to the very end, he would give Loretta a wink and tell her how much he was still in love with her. He loved music; specifically classical music and hymns.
In his later years, John’s health declined. He began to talk a lot about going to his heavenly home. He would dream about it and of his family members who had gone on before him. Like a boxer, with each medical challenge and setback, he would get off the mat (so to speak) and recover to see another day, another year. Loretta looked after him well, cared for him and took him to all his doctor’s appointments and nursed him. Through it all, God blessed him and showed Himself as merciful and faithful. Early on Wednesday afternoon, January 18, 2023, God showed John again just how merciful He is by giving John a call and receiving him to Himself at the ripe age of ninety (90) years old. That is four score and ten.
John was preceded in death by his mother, Savannah (Clifton) Thompson, his brother Cleophus Johnson, two sisters, Marie Henderson and Josephine (James) Rice; and his oldest son, Kevin W. Johnson. He leaves to cherish his memory, his wife of 68 years, Loretta, daughters Denise A. Sarpy of Plainfield, IL; Danette L. Culver (Glenn) of Grosse Pointe, MI; Stephanie J. Wideman (Ronald, Jr.) of East Hazel Crest, IL; sons Dr. Kenneth O. Johnson of Hazel Crest, IL and Stephen J. Johnson (Heidi) of Ypsilanti, MI; his sister, Shirley Thompson-Christian (Edward) of Chicago, IL; and brother-in-law, Dr. Donald M. Suggs, Sr. of St. Louis, MO; twelve grandchildren; twelve great-grandchildren, along with host of nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.