Ernest B. Johnson, Jr. ’54 died on July 11, 2022, in East Sandwich, Massachusetts.
(The following was provided by the Central Maine on July 21, 2022)
EAST SANDWICH, Mass. – The Reverend Ernest Bernhardt Johnson, Jr. passed away on July 11, 2022, peacefully at home surrounded by his family.
Ernest was born on June 16, 1923, in Woburn, Massachusetts, and was raised on the family farm in Lexington, Massachusetts, where he learned to farm and raise cattle. Eldest son of Ernest Bernhardt Johnson, Sr. and Ruth Peterson Johnson, Ernest enlisted in the armed services in 1944 and fought in World War II. He was a POW and was honorably discharged, earning a Purple Heart. He returned from war and sought comfort back on the farm with his cows and family.
He earned a bachelor’s degree from Bowdoin College in 1951 and then continued his education at Bangor Theological School where he was ordained as a Congregational minister in 1955. His first preaching assignment was in East Millinocket, Maine, where he met his beloved wife, Jan Sawyer. Ernest and Jan shared life together dedicating themselves to serving God, as Ernest preached and Jan played the organ. They married in 1950 and settled in Hallowell, Maine, where Ernest preached at the Old South Church from 1950-1958. He continued his ministry at Union Congregational Church of Weymouth and Braintree, Massachusetts, for 27 years and raised four children. While at Union Cong, he continued his education in theology at Andover Theological Seminary in pursuit of his doctorate degree. Ernest created and erected Union Towers I and II, senior housing complexes during that time. He served as the executive director from 1979-1995.
In 1985, Ernest and Jan retired to a farmhouse he and Jan renovated that sat on sixty acres of land in West Gardiner, Maine. They sold fresh farm eggs, harvested acres of garden vegetables, and raised Scottish Highland cattle. He continued his work serving God at the Manchester Community Church in Manchester, Maine, from 1990-2010, a dream he achieved as he expressed, “I want to take a small, rural, struggling church and make it hum.” He did just that as the congregation grew as well as the building adding a social hall and a steeple that he believed, “pointed to God.”
As a minister, Ernest walked among the people and believed a church was a place “where people count and Christ is honored” because a church is “a beacon to God’s grace.” Due to a medical situation beyond his control, Ernest retired after sixty-three years of preaching and moved to Cape Cod with his daughter, Lori, and her family.
Beyond his love of God, the church, and His people, Ernest was an avid train enthusiast creating model railroad villages in every place he lived. A beloved cottage he built in 1960 on Cobbosseecontee Lake in Manchester, Maine, is where he summered with his family. He was a historian who could converse extensively on any topic of history. He was proud of his Swedish heritage and cherished the traditions and Swedish folklore.
Ernest was predeceased by his wife, Jan, his parents, Ernest and Ruth Johnson, his brothers, Reverend Stanley Johnson, Arthur Johnson, Robert Johnson, his sister, Lorraine Small, and his longtime companion, Diane Welch.
Ernest is survived by his son, Ernest B. Johnson III of Portland, his daughter, Deborah L. Wood, and son-in-law, Dr. Jonathan Wood, of South Yarmouth, Mass., and their three children, Katharine Fricke, Marjorie Brandt, and Joshua Wood, his son, Bruce S. Johnson, and daughter-in-law Lisa Johnson of Duxbury, Mass., and his daughter, Lori Horan and son-in-law, Shawn Horan, and their children, Sonja L. Horan, Sawyer S. Horan, and Wesley J. Horan of East Sandwich, Mass., Allison Gram, his caregiver, and several great-grandchildren, nieces, and nephews.