Shirley C. Johnson,
92, beloved Mother, Mimi, and Aunt, passed away peacefully and gently with her daughter Cindy by her side and the overwhelming love of her family and God, on Sunday, December 17th, at Sturdy Memorial Hospital after a brief illness. She left behind a legacy of love and kindness and the broken hearts of all who had the pleasure of knowing her.
Shirley was born on March 12, 1925 in Waterville, Maine, daughter of the late Charles and Laura Chase. She was the widow of Warren A. Johnson who passed from this life on August 18th, 2011, and she was the sister of the late Marjorie Chase and Evelyn Chase Hagerup.
Shirley is survived by three daughters and their families; Cindy and her husband Glenn Warren of Norton MA with whom she resided for the last twelve years. Their home was filled with great joy, laughter, love, and most importantly, the tender care provided daily by her loving 'son' Glenn – they meant the world to each other. She is survived by her daughter Kristine and husband John Menzie of Naples FL. It gave Shirley great joy to receive her daily emails and weekly phone calls with Kris and Jack and she especially loved their visits. Shirley is also survived by her beloved granddaughter Kendra and her husband Galen Karriker, great-grandson Graeson and newest great-granddaughter, Korinne. Shirley is survived by her daughter Karen and husband Peter Baranowski of East Falmouth MA. She always enjoyed her time spent with them when they called or visited. She is survived by grandchildren Lyn Baranowski, and David and his wife Ali Baranowski and great-grandchildren Ellen, Ben, Charlie and Will.
Shirley had an extraordinary life. She was raised on a farm in Waterville, Maine where her family grew their own food and raised farm animals to sustain themselves in the 'pre-depression' era. She was an avid reader and in the early days, she would seek out quiet spots around the farm to read her books, which at that time, were a rare commodity. Her father loved to make up stories and sing made-up songs and her mother was a pianist and loved to sing the old hymns while she worked canning and cooking. It was in those early years that Shirley began her love of music and ultimately, became an accomplished pianist and organist.
Shirley graduated Waterville High School, 1942 and went on to receive her Bachelor of Music Degree from BU College of Music, 1946. Later in life she went to Framingham State and received her Master's Degree in Education, 1966.
She met her husband Warren, at a sorority dance in April of 1945 while at BU. He was home on shore leave and to quote her words, “In a room full of ensigns (uniformed) this tall, blonde and good looking man in a true sailor's uniform walked into our sorority room dance – and that was it…” and in Warren’s words, he had to “rescue her from some obnoxious flyboys!” That was the beginning of a love affair that spanned decades. She saw him every day for the next 10 days of his shore leave, at which point, he told her they were getting married as soon as he got out. And on a blistering 112 degree day in Waterville, Maine, they wed June 29th, 1946 and were married for 65 years until Warren’s passing.
Shirley and Warren had a wonderful life, moving to Norwood, MA in 1949 where they lived for 35 years and raised their three daughters. Shirley’s music teaching career started in Manchester/Essex MA 1946-1949 and then she taught music in the Norwood elementary school system from 1960-1969 while raising her daughters who also had her for a music teacher along with countless children from Norwood that still remember her today. She finished out her career, teaching kindergarten/first grade from 1969-1985, at which time she retired.
In addition to teaching, providing a loving home for her family, and furthering her education, Shirley was also the organist and choir director at the Grace Episcopal Church in Norwood for nine years. Both Shirley and Warren were very involved with the church, playing or singing in the choir along with their daughters, directing the Belles and Beau’s shows at the Guild Building and the Cups and Saucers church group for the young couples. It was a busy time in her life! After retirement, Shirley was also the organist for the Methodist Church in Peterborough, NH for eleven years and upon her move to Norton, became the organist for the Chartley Methodist Church for four years. She also visited local nursing homes wherever she lived providing entertainment for those living there – playing the old songs from the 40s and 50’s upon request – no music needed…she was a talented lady.
Shirley shared a great love of the outdoors like her husband, traveling the eastern seaboard, across the country and Canada, camping with her family and then alone with her husband up until he was 80 years old. She loved nature and wildlife in general and enjoyed watching the deer, raccoons, fox, bunnies, possums and turkeys in her backyard and a vast assortment of birds that would come to her feeders. But music was the greatest joy of her life besides her family, with a beautiful singing voice and a love of the old hymns and songs, she could sit down on the piano and play anything from blues, oldies, hymns and classical to name but a few. She also loved her pets, surrounding herself with many dogs and cats over the years.
Shirley was beloved by all who met her. She had bright sky blue eyes that drew you in and the most beautiful smile in the world. She was a sweet, kind, caring and loving woman who never said a disparaging thing in her life. She also had a great faith in God, read bible verses daily, and spoke to God in prayer or thanks every day of her life. She was joyful in living and how she felt about others. She wrote about one of the most important things she had learned, “Be yourself, praise others easily, listen to others carefully, remember others failings only to the extent that you can help them, and be slow to criticize.” She was truly one of God’s special angels on earth and being close to her, you knew you were in the presence of a beautiful soul.
In addition to her immediate family, Shirley is survived by many nieces and nephews whom she loved dearly and her two sister in-laws, Doris Hastie and Shirley Wiedemann. Cindy and Glenn would also like to thank those friends that over the years helped Shirley out through their acts of support and kindness. She so appreciated you all!
As Christmas was Shirley’s favorite holiday of the year, instead of coming together to share in her passing, we know she would love it if you take this time to hold your families a little closer and celebrate the true meaning of Christmas, be grateful for every moment you have with your loved ones and say a quiet prayer, celebrating her life with your own memories. Her family is blessed for the time they had with Shirley and she will be missed more than words can express.
Shirley’s final journey is in the loving care of the Bolea-Amici Funeral Home in Mansfield, MA where you may leave a message of condolence for the family. Also, in remembrance, donations can be made in Shirley’s name to Nine Lives of Norton, PO Box 548, Norton MA, 02766. www.ninelivesofnorton.org
In closing this chapter of Shirley's life, we leave you with one of her favorite verses about God that she so loved:
Dear Lord, of these three things I pray:
To see thee more clearly,
To love thee more dearly,
To follow thee more nearly.
St. Richard of Chichester, 1293
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