Mary Early Johnson, age 88, a life-long resident of Crawfordsville, joined the heavenly beer-drinking Presbyterian chorus Wednesday, January 24, at roughly 6:30 am at the IU Arnett Hospital in beautiful Lafayette, IN. She was no spring chicken. Her official cause of death was listed as “angelic consensus” who notified her that her presence was requested, and that it was time for her to move on. She passed peacefully surrounded by family. (this, of course isn’t true, but it sounds so good.) She went down swinging, as one would expect.
This girl had it going on. For a long time. Born and raised in Montgomery County, Mary was stricken by Polio as a young child, thus ruining her track career. A known zigger and zagger, she became a voracious reader and student. She graduated from Crawfordsville High School in 1947. In 1949, she went on a road trip with her friend Joyce Rice to Grand Rapids, where she met Allen Johnson, and the two were married two weeks later. How does that happen? Eventually, after bearing five beautiful children, she earned her bachelors from IUPUI – Herron School of Art in 1974, and her Masters of Library Science in 1994, at age 65 (we’re a long line of late bloomers). She worked throughout her life, for R.R Donnelly’s as a proofreader in the 1960’s to help support her strained and rapidly growing family and also at Wabash College – where she ran the craft center in the basement of Yandes Hall. For nearly 40 years she produced beautiful and thoughtful hand screen printed posters for Wabash College many of which are now framed in homes and businesses everywhere. She worked for the Crawfordsville District Public Library as the reference and local history librarian. Retiring at age 75. She became the little old lady in the back that knew everything about everything. Scary. When not working, she was working. She was very involved in the community throughout her entire life, she served on the session for Wabash avenue Presbyterian church, was instrumental in the early development of the Sugar Creek Players, served on local history boards, committees, and reading groups. So much so, that on July 31, 2001, she was presented with the prestigious “Sagamore of the Wabash” award in recognition for her contributions to the community.
Mary, is preceded in death by her parents; Robert and Opel (Fruits) Early, and by her grandparents; Ollie and Delpha Fruits, (note the rocking old-school nomenclature) of Crawfordsville, IN who all died like a hundred years ago. She is also preceded in death by her more perky and personable sister, Anne Powers, of Carmel, IN. whose passing caused a major disruption in the “radio call-in contest industry” of greater Indianapolis. And, by her challenging late husband of two marriages (really weird story), Allen W. Johnson, who died March 12, 2008 at the Ben Hur Nursing Villa, in picturesque Crawfordsville, IN. His cause of death was listed as “bad attitude”, who pulled the plug primarily to get even with Mary, while she was attempting a vacation in Florida, without him.
She is survived by her five children, including her favorite – Robert Allen Johnson (Rose), Greenwood, IN; Laura Drake (Kevin), Lafayette, IN; Nora Smith, Corvallis, OR; Robert Johnson (Anita Pryor), Jacksonville Beach, FL, and Rebecca Johnson (Neal Finklestein), Oakland, CA
Additionally, she is survived by 17 grandchildren – which seems excessive – And coincidentally, 17 great grandchildren, and improbably 2 great, great grandchildren. Bottom line here; she cast a pretty wide net . .