Elizabeth Peale Johnson died on March 21, 2020 at John Knox Village in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. Elizabeth, known as Betty by her friends and family, served as an inspiration to all who knew her. She was 99 years old.
Born and raised in NJ, Betty graduated from East Orange High School in 1938. She served as a secretary for the War Production Board in Washington, D.C. during World War II. After the War, she returned home to NJ where she married Raleigh “Zeke” Johnson. Zeke supported and cheered for Betty’s dreams and ambitions for over 46 years of marriage until he passed in 1996. Betty and Zeke lived on Mount Salem Road in Wantage, N.J. for over 30 years.
Betty graduated from Rutgers University with her A.B. Degree in American History and from New York University with her M.A. in Counseling. Beginning as a counselor, Betty served as the Director of Admissions at Orange County Community College in Middletown, N.Y. until she retired in 1984.
Betty believed strongly in giving to her community. She served in a number of leadership positions including in local branches of the League of Women Voters, the National Council of Negro Women, and the Young Women’s Christian Association. She served on the N.J. State Review Board for Historic Sites and the N.J. State Historical Records Advisory Board. She was also proud of attending the March on Washington with Dr. Martin Luther King.
Inspired by Alex Haley’s Roots (1977), Betty embarked on a decades long journey to research her family history. She traveled with her husband to Alabama and North Carolina. Her efforts culminated in a detailed book of her ancestors written for her family. Her passion for genealogy led her to co-founding the N.J. Chapter of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society in 1990. She served as its first President and remained active until moving to Iowa in 2001.
In Iowa, she continued her commitment to community service. She was a member of the First Baptist Church in Ames. She was active in the Iowa State University Women’s Club, League of Women’s Voters (Ames), the Inkspots writing group, the Big Table Book Club, and the diversity committee of Youth and Shelter Services. She also volunteered at Mary Greeley Medical Center.
Betty moved to John Knox Village in 2006 where she remained until her passing. She was a member of the John Knox Village Church. She served as an Ambassador of the John Knox Village Foundation, sat on the resident council, participated in many book clubs, was a mentor to first year UMKC Medical students, and volunteered at the John Knox Village Thrift Shop. Her family is thankful for the good times and many friends she made as a resident.
Betty also had a passion for travel. She explored many countries and new cultures including England, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Ghana, Panama Canal, Kenya, and Canada. She traveled throughout the United States including Hawaii and Alaska. She pursued her love of travel well into her eighties.
Mrs. Johnson is survived by a loving family including her niece Jacqueline Murphy (Derek) of West Orange, N.J., nephew Howard P. Smith, Jr. (Beverly) in Hilo, Hawaii, cousin Loretta Porter, and many great nieces, great great nieces and nephews, and cousins.
Services have been entrusted to Watkins Heritage Chapel in Kansas City, Missouri and Martin’s Home for Service, Inc. in Montclair, N.J. Interment will be at Glendale Cemetery in Bloomfield, N.J. There will be no service. After the threat of the novel coronavirus has passed two memorial services will be held in Lee’s Summit, Missouri and in New Jersey to celebrate Betty’s remarkable and inspiring life. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the New Jersey Chapter of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society located at AAHGS NJ, P.O. Box 5343, Somerset, NJ 08875.
Funeral Services will be held at 1:00 P.M. on Friday, May 1, 2020 at Lawrence A. Jones & Sons Linwood Chapel. Interment Forest Hill & Calvary Cemetery.
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