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Obituary for Deborah S. Johnson

Mrs. Deborah Amelia Smith Johnson, 69 of 705 Falls Street peacefully departed this life Sunday, January 29, 2017 to be with the Master she diligently served and loved. She had spent the last several weeks in In-Home hospice at the home of her sister and brother-in-law, Dr. Johnnye Massenburg-Johnson and Earl Johnson of Midlothian, Virginia after a brief bout with pancreatic cancer. She was born October 8, 1947 in Bronx, New York; the oldest of three daughters born to the late John Franklin Smith and Florence Elizabeth Rowland Smith.

She was married to the late Ronald Latrice Johnson in June 1974. To this union, two children were born; Reginald Maurice and Rhondye Demelia Johnson.

Debbie, Deb, “Mah”, Momma Dee, Grandma, Aunt Dee Dee, Dee, as she was affectionately called, received her early education in Durham City Public Schools. She graduated from Hillside High School in the class of 1965 and remained an active alumnus, attending many of her class events. She was a 1970 graduate of Winston Salem State University where she began as an education major before switching over to becoming a music major.

Deborah was a gifted keyboardist, playing both the piano and organ with grace and style. She was also a gifted singer; being blessed with the ability to sing first and second soprano. For years, beginning in her early pre-teen years, she could be heard playing and singing classical music throughout the house and in school. As she grew closer to the Lord, her love for Gospel and Spirituals grew, and she began playing and singing in church; however, her love for the classics of Mozart and Beethoven never dampened.

Her gift and love of music was shared with many as she served as a music teacher for the Nottoway County Schools from 1970 until her retirement in 2013. In order to be an “at-home’ Mother to her children, and to be able to participate in their school activities and events, she took five years off but then returned to what she loved, teaching music and music appreciation to children and adults. She was famous for the many musical productions she spearheaded with her students throughout the years. Additionally, she taught many children and adults how to play the piano, offering private lessons both in her home and in theirs.

She enjoyed reading, listening to music, playing the organ and piano, attending church and Bible Study, and spending time with her family, especially her grandchildren. Her passion was music!!!!! Even after retiring, she spent many days substituting as she just couldn’t seem to let go of teaching children music. She loved posting on Facebook; especially delicious recipes. It was once said, “Ms. Deborah must be a great cook, she's always posting great recipes”. Truth is, she never attempted to cook most of the recipes she posted. Her joy came not in preparing the different dishes, but in providing recipes she thought others would enjoy.

During her forty-seven years as a resident of Blackstone, she served as Minister of Music and/or Church Organist for Spring Hill, Poplar Lawn, Levi and Shiloh Baptist Churches. At Shiloh, she was also a member of the Deaconess Board where she served as Secretary and President of the Women’s Ministry. She was also very active with the Cancer Walk as she was an eight-year breast cancer survivor. Debbie was also a member of the Lunenburg/Nottoway Retired Teachers Association.

Debbie was preceded in death by her husband, Ronald L. Johnson and both parents, John and Florence R. Smith. Celebrating the memory of her life and those who will be most profoundly deprived of the warmth of her love, personality and strength of her character are her two children, Rhondye Johnson and Reginald Johnson (Latoya), Blackstone, one step-daughter, Angela Thomas, Henrico; two sisters, Jacquelyn S. Cooper, Butner, North Carolina, devoted, Dr. Johnnye S. Massenburg-Johnson (Earl Johnson), Midlothian, Virginia; two sisters-in-law, Patricia Greenhill (Larry), Clinton, Maryland and Beverly Clay (Floyd), Blackstone; nine grandchildren; Sanje and Kai’Ron Johnson of the home, M’Kaylah, Alexis and Michael Lewis and Hakeem Johnson, Blackstone; Jasmine Oliver, G’mare Knight and, Nathan Thomas, Jr., Henrico; three great-grand children, Shane, Jase and Kori Herbin, seven nieces and nephews, Charles Norman, Jr. (Jennifer), Butner, North Carolina, Vikki Alexander, Durham, North Carolina, Florence Nicole Harris (Leon), Clinton, North Carolina, Reather Massenburg, Durham, North Carolina, Charmaine Brooks (Joseph), Waldorf, Maryland, Tony Johnson (Celina), and Tia Moorefield, Pasadena, California; eleven great nieces and nephews; a host of cousins, other relatives and friends and her Shiloh Baptist Church family and Reverend Travis Warren, and the Church family of Spring Hill Baptist Church.

Funeral Services will be held Saturday, February 4, 2017 at 1:00 p.m. at Nottoway High School. Interment Greenview Cemetery.

W.E. Hawkes & Son Funeral Home of Blackstone in charge of arrangements.


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