The grandmother of 10 was also a longtime advocate for education
ISLIP TOWN—Joan Johnson, a former Islip Town clerk, passed away over weekend. She was 85 years old.
Johnson, the first African-American to hold elected office in Islip Town’s history, was elected as town clerk in 1991. She held the post until retiring in 2007.
Islip Town supervisor Angie Carpenter called Johnson a “mentor” and “role model to so many.” Carpenter added, “ She was dedicated to her work in the town, and was committed to the community and to serving its residents.”
Legis. Tom Cilmi gave his condolences earlier this week on Facebook, calling Johnson a “very special lady.” Cilmi added, “Whenever I saw her, she would grab my face in between her hands and smile. I will never forget her kindness and support.”
Johnson made an unsuccessful run for Congress in 2000. She also served on the Central Islip Board of Education and became vice president during her second term as town clerk.
Sen. Phil Boyle said, back in 2015, that throughout Johnson’s lifetime and during her time in office, she “[had] shown a tremendous commitment to education. She [knew] firsthand that education affords everyone the opportunity to succeed. She demonstrated this through her participation on various community-based organizations and involvement in education initiatives.”
In addition, Johnson started working with the Central Islip-based Long Island Head Start program in the 1970s. She began as a social worker and eventually worked her way up to the program’s director.
Johnson worked as an adjunct professor at the New York Institute of Technology and received numerous awards, including the Phi Delta Kappa Friend of Education Award and an Honorary Doctor of Civil Laws degree from Dowling College.
In 1995, she also won the Ms. Senior New York State title, and finished as first runner-up in the Ms. Senior America Pageant.
Johnson died on Saturday, Aug. 10, at her home in Great River, according to reports. She leaves behind her husband, Cleveland Johnson, of 62 years, along with their four children, Keith, Geneviene, Kelly and Cleveland III, and 11 grandchildren.
Her daughter, Kelly Schae, wrote in a lengthy Facebook post from earlier this week that her mother, one of eight children, was born and raised in West Palm Beach, Fla. The posting explains that her mother originally came to New York in the 1950s, hoping to became a singer, but her “entire adult life became one devoted to the service of others.”
Johnson was active in the Civil Rights Movement, in Harlem, during the ’50s and ’60s. She eventually moved to Central Islip with her family and, according to her daughter, “never lost sight of the importance of having a voice and fighting for what you believe in.”
In lieu of flowers, Johnson’s family asks that donations be made in Johnson’s name to Long Island Head Start.
Visitation dates are scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 14 and Thursday, Aug. 15, from 2 to 4 p.m., at the Frederick J. Chapey & Sons Funeral Home on 200 East Main Street in East Islip.
Service will be held on Friday, Aug. 16, at 10:30 a.m., at the Frederick J. Chapey & Sons Funeral Home.