Hattie Mae Johnson

Hattie Mae Johnson passed away gently on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, April 2, 2017, at Forrest General Hospital, Hattiesburg, MS. She was 98.

She was born September 22, 1918, in Rolling Fork, MS. When Hattie Mae was six weeks old, her devoted parents, Frank N. and Mae Byrd Gerhart moved with her and her older brothers, Bert, Frank, and Jessie, to a farm just south of Columbus, MS. There she grew up. She attended local schools and graduated from then-named Mississippi State College for Women in 1939.

While teaching school in Caledonia, MS, she met and fell in love with Lieutenant Roger Barton Johnson of Amory, MS. In June 1941, they married during a very short military leave. World War II dominated the early years of their marriage, which lasted 63 years until Brigadier General Johnson’s death in 2004. During the war, in his absence, she coached football. After the war, they lived in Artesia and Columbus. Later, during the Korean War, she and the children accompanied Major Johnson to Camp Stewart, GA, before his deployment overseas.

In August 1956, the family, then including four children, moved to Hattiesburg to begin a long-term relationship with the University of Southern Mississippi. Hattie Mae was a charter member of the Faculty Wives’ Club of USM and engaged robustly in the rich cultural life of the University, especially activities associated with the De Grummond Children’s Literature Collection. She was an accomplished hostess, who always put others first, made friends out of strangers, enjoyed book clubs, and participated in frequent prayer circles. Even until her last days, she remained mentally sharp, exercising her remarkable memory and sense of humor. As her eyesight faded, she drew on a wealth of memorized Bible verses, as well as favorite passages by Margaret Mitchell, William Wordsworth, and Eudora Welty.

She was a member of University Baptist Church of Hattiesburg and, for many years earlier, had served as a member of First Baptist Church, where she expressed her love for young children as a Sunday School teacher and librarian. In various Baptist churches, she taught young children for seventy years. Her faith and commitment were profound.

She was preceded in death by her parents, husband, brothers, and daughter-in-law Sue Ellen Johnson. She is survived by five children and their spouses: Roger Johnson, Jr., and Patricia Savage of Hollidaysburg, PA; Memrie Johnson Kelly and Thomas Kelly of Housatonic, MA; Stephen Johnson and Jan Clodius of Wilmington, DE; Thomas Johnson and Mariko Johnson of Bonn, Germany; and Burney Johnson and Dr. Maria Johnson of Birmingham, AL. To this list Hattie Mae wished to add her “daughter-in-love,” Hildegard Cox of Nashville, TN.

Grandchildren and their spouses include Amanda Johnson Kopelman and Arthur Kopelman of West Sayville, NY; Marlowe Johnson and Soo Hyun Kim Johnson of New York City, NY; E. Meredith Johnson and Timothy Curtis of New Paltz, NY; Lydia Kelly Uselton and Jordan Uselton of Nashville, TN; Will Kelly of New York City, NY; Ilona Johnson and Catherine Ahn of Los Angeles; CA; Kenneth Johnson of Honolulu, HI; Stefani Johnson Myrick and Brett Myrick of Washington, DC; Anna Johnson of Mobile, AL; Phillip Johnson of Ann Arbor, MI; and Roger Franklin Johnson of Memphis, TN.

Great-grandchildren are Amelia and Cleo Verderosa, Joseph Kopelman, Elle and Leo Uselton, and Maelan and Amelie Johnson.

A celebration of Hattie Mae’s life is scheduled for 3:00 Saturday at University Baptist Church, 3200 West Arlington Loop, Hattiesburg, MS, preceded by visitation from 1:30-3:00 Saturday. Pastor Rusty Edwards will lead the service. Interment at Highland Cemetery, 3401 West 4th Street, Hattiesburg, will follow the service. Hewlett-Winstead Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

Hattie Mae designated St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital as a favorite charity. The address is PO Box 1000, Dept. 142, Memphis, TN 38148-0142.