"When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life in such a manner that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice."
There are many variations of this proverb in various cultures, but this sums up the life of James L. "Jim" Johnson, a loving, devoted family member, and generous, compassionate friend to so many whose lives he touched. Jim was born on July 18, 1937 in Elwood, Indiana, the son of Gerald and Carolyn (Haworth) Johnson, and passed away suddenly on May 6, 2020 at his home at the age of 82. Jim was a 1955 graduate of Walnut Grove High School in Indiana and later graduated from Michigan State University with a Bachelor's Degree in Floriculture. He married the love of his life, Janice E. Gieseke on January 24, 1960 and they shared nearly 38 years of marriage before her passing on January 15, 1998. Jim and Jan owned and operated Johnson's Flower Shop in Huntington, Indiana from 1962 to 1975. While establishing a successful floral design business, Jim and Jan rejoiced in the births of their three children, Jill, Jay and Jennifer.
In 1975, the Johnson family moved to College Station, Texas when Jim was named the Endowed Chair of the Benz School of Floral Design at Texas A&M University, the only such Endowed Chair of its kind in the world. Jim's myriad responsibilities at TAMU also included serving as the Senior Lecturer of Floral Design for the Department of Horticulture, director of San Jacinto Publishing Company, the director of the Benz Gallery of Floral Art, and the director of the Benz School Korea, located in Seoul, South Korea.. He became a world renowned educator of floral design and floral art, influencing generations of floral designers and educators, and was honored with the title of Distinguished Lecturer at TAMU. He enjoyed membership and leadership positions, often earning special honors within the American Institute of Floral Designers, Texas State Florists Association, American Academy of Florists, and various garden clubs, while still serving humbly and faithfully at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in College Station. He was an avid supporter of all types of arts, from symphony orchestras and museums, to jazz concerts and the written word. If it was art, it attracted Jim's attention and he would use what he had experienced in a floral design or art interpretation to inspire others in unexpected, often whimsical ways.
Jim retired from teaching at Texas A&M in 2011, earning the title of Director Emeritus from the university. He returned to his ancestral home in Aroma, Indiana in 2016 with an enthusiastic spirit, ready to take on the next adventures of his life. The first of his endeavors was to restore and remodel the original Johnson family home in Aroma in which he lived. Travelling was also on his schedule, planning a memorable bonding trip for each of his grandchildren's high school graduations. Jim's passion for art led him to volunteer at the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields. He researched family genealogy and history, gardened, assembled volumes of scrapbooks and reconnected with his Indiana family, each bringing him great joy. He was a lifelong member of the Aroma United Methodist Church and also a member of Christ Lutheran Church in Noblesville, often making it to two services on Sundays.
Matthew 25:23 "Well done, good and faithful servant." Jim lived a joy-filled life and shared that joy, laughter, love and compassion with his family and everyone he met. He was a man who lived his faith and shared Christ's teachings freely and generously. Jim is survived by his three beloved children: Jill (Sam) Allen of Clayton, NC, Jay (Malinda) Johnson of Clayton, NC, and Jennifer (Rob) Matthews of New Castle, CO; brother, Tim (Kris) Johnson of Atlanta; nine grandchildren, Dr. Aubrey (Dr. Justin) Hess, Samuel Allen, Jacob Allen, Gabriel Johnson, Lydia (Adam) Dohrmann, Jessie Johnson, Zechariah Matthews, Sarah Matthews, and Adam Matthews; and a great-grandson, Sebastian Dohrmann.
Visitation will be held from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm prior to the funeral on Saturday, May 16 at Copher-Fesler-May Funeral Home in Elwood, Indiana. Due to COVID19, social distancing will be enforced and the chapel will be limited to 25 people at a time during the visitation for health safety. Visitors are encouraged to wear masks; anyone who is sick, as well as children 12 and under are discouraged from attending; hugs, handshakes and embracing are discouraged. Jim's funeral will be video recorded and uploaded to the funeral home website later that day for watching remotely. Memorial contributions are suggested to the Aroma United Methodist and may be made through the funeral home. Online condolences and memories may be shared at www.copherfeslermay.com. A private family funeral service celebrating Jim's life will be conducted at 2:00 pm on Saturday, May 16, 2020 at Copher-Fesler-May Funeral Home in Elwood, Pastor Charlie Hoover of the Aroma United Methodist Church will be officiating the celebration of Jim's life. Burial will follow at the Aroma Cemetery in rural Atlanta.
A memorial event will be held on the Texas A&M University campus at a later date. Please follow the Benz School of Floral Design at Texas A&M University Facebook page for details, or contact the Benz School of Floral Design.
2 Timothy 4:7 "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." Jim was an educator, but he taught more than floral design. Jim's life was a living laboratory and lecture on how to treat others, how to share the beauty of this world, and how to make the world a better place through kindness. He would ask each of us to pay forward the positivity he instilled in each of us.