Send a Sympathy Card
Plant Memorial Trees
Send a Sympathy Gift
Saturday, February 17, 2024
Starts at 11:00 am (Eastern time)
Mary Frances Shuler Johnson, 95, passed away on Friday, January 26, 2024 in Lynchburg, Virginia. She was the wife of the Reverend Doctor John Willard “Jack” Johnson (1924-2019), Founding Minister of Timberlake Christian Church (1968-1990) and, later, Minister Emeritus. Mary and Jack were Charter Members of TCC.
Mary was a resident of the Brookville-Timberlake area of Campbell County since 1968. A beloved public school teacher for more than 35 years, Mary spent the majority of her career teaching at the historic New London Academy in Bedford County in the younger grades, especially many years as a well-loved Kindergarten teacher. Even in her 90’s, she still remembered her students’ names and details of their lives when they would see her around town or forge successful careers. Mary would happily recount how her then-Kindergarten student, Anthony Poindexter, loved throwing a stuffed, cloth football (made by her sister, Eve Holtzman) at NLA. Poindexter went on to play football for the University of Virginia and the NFL. He was a Super Bowl XXXV Champion with the Baltimore Ravens in 2001.
Mrs. Johnson was proud of all of her students, including Cathy Quesenberry, who became Dr. Cathy Q. Anderson, now an Optometrist in Lynchburg. Mary, in her 90’s, still recounted fond memories of Cathy and her sister, each sitting on their parents’ laps during parent-teacher conferences at her desk in her NLA Kindergarten classroom.
Mary remembered so much about each of the thousands of students she taught and their parents and families. They recognized her and greeted her warmly when they ran into Mrs. Johnson around town, even decades after their Kindergarten days.
Mary was a prolific writer of letters, cards, and published articles. She remembered everyone’s birth dates, anniversaries, the names of their children and family members and even their dogs. She would send cards to congratulate graduates, encourage the sick, and celebrate every occasion. Her children still save the beautiful cards and letters written to them by their Mom and Dad, Mary and Jack.
Mary’s articles were published in the News and Advance of Lynchburg, the Bedford Bulletin, and Montpelier Magazine (of JMU). Many of her local articles were about her children’s awards and accomplishments, from Virginia and New Mexico to London and Paris. (She never promoted or wrote about her own accomplishments.) She was honored by Montpelier Magazine and won awards for two articles she wrote about her favorite professors at then-Madison College. (The column is called “Professors We Love.”)
“A great conversationalist” is how a neighbor recently described Mary. She conversed easily with (encouraged and uplifted) everyone from her friends, family, and strangers to her neighbors, church friends, students and their parents, to the wife of the U.S. Ambassador to France at the Embassy Residence in Paris (with Jack and their daughter in 2006). Her four children learned much about talking with everyone by hearing their Mom and Dad welcome and encourage thousands of people over the years.
Mary loved being a wife, mother, educator, homemaker, and then grandmother and great grandmother. She enjoyed gardening, sewing, cooking, and helping her husband and children with their many endeavors all over Virginia, the USA, and world.
Mary was born at home in 1928 in Shenandoah, Virginia, delivered by a relative, Dr. Shuler. She was the eldest daughter and second-eldest child of the six children (three boys and three girls) of Fred Amos Shuler, Sr., and Alma Beatrice Comer Shuler. Mary recalled her Dad taking her (as a child) to see President Franklin D. Roosevelt when he visited Big Meadows, Virginia.
At age 15, Mary Frances was Valedictorian of her graduating class at Shenandoah High School (1944) and First Runner-Up to Miss Shenandoah. Growing up on her parents’ dairy farm in Elkton, Mary “fed the chickens and milked the cows,” as she later recounted to her children.
At age 19, Mary Frances earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Madison College (now James Madison University) in Harrisonburg in 1948. She began teaching Home Economics to high school students who were just a year or two younger than she was. Her parents loaned her money to buy a new, green car because she needed to drive to her students’ homes to grade their projects, such as recovering a couch in upholstery fabric and preparing meals for their families.
Mary Frances met her future husband at the University of Virginia, where they were each taking graduate education courses in the summer of 1953. Jack (28) first saw Mary (24) at a Tea Dance at the UVA YMCA in early July. They were married five months later, on November 27, 1953 (a snowy Friday, the day after Thanksgiving) at the First Christian Church of Shenandoah. Her groom was an ordained minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and a graduate of Yale Divinity School and Lynchburg College. His father, the Reverend Ben S. Johnson (YDS), co-officiated the nuptials.
Mary and Jack’s first home was a second-floor apartment (made of Sunday School rooms) in the First Christian Church of Richlands, where Jack was the Senior Minister. The young couple next moved to Norfolk, where Jack was Founding Minister of Diamond Springs Christian Church (now Chalice Christian Church) and Mary taught school before having their first three children. The family then moved to serve Bethany Christian Church in Roanoke, where the couple’s fourth child was born and Mary continued to teach. In 1968, the Johnsons moved to Campbell County (near Lynchburg), where Jack was the Founding Minister of Timberlake Christian Church. The first year, Mary was Principal and a teacher at Evington Elementary School (before it closed). She then began her long career at New London Academy in Bedford County.
Mary taught in Frederick, Maryland; Northern Virginia, Norfolk, Roanoke, and Bedford County. She was active in the NEA, VEA, and BCEA.
Mary and Jack served as Co-Presidents of the PTA at Preston Park Elementary School in Roanoke. They were active in Lynchburg and District Mended Hearts, which helps encourage and educate heart-surgery patients. They also volunteered with Meals on Wheels. Mary was active with the James Madison University Alumni Association.
Mary and Jack traveled to national conventions of the Christian Church (DoC) and of Mended Hearts in Toronto, Alaska, and Hawaii. They enjoyed visiting their daughter in Paris (twice) and their friends in London. Mary attended NEA conventions in Miami, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere.
Mary taught Sunday School at several churches they served. She was active in the Christian Women’s Fellowship and church nurseries.
Mary is survived by her beloved children: John Mark “Journey” and wife, Sharon, of Midlothian; David of Lynchburg; Anne of Florida; and Paul and his wife, Betsy, of Charlottesville.
Left to cherish her memory are her nine grandchildren: Jeni, Bobby (Brooke), Katie (Cody), Jack II; Tim, Ben, Joseph; Augusta (“Augie") and Paul II, as well as her six great-grandchildren: Rylan and Delaney; Abbey and Layton; Millie and Carson.
Mary is survived by a sister, Eve Shuler Holtzman, of Northern Virginia; a brother, Dr. James Marshall Shuler and his wife, Margaret, of Blacksburg, and a sister-in-law, Janet Johnson Riley of Indianapolis.
Her siblings who predeceased her were: Charles Franklin Shuler of Elkton, Elizabeth “Beth” Shuler Wampler of Harrisonburg, and Fred Amos Shuler, Jr., of Crossville, Tennessee.
A Celebration of Mary’s Life will be held on Saturday, February 17, 2024 at 11a.m. at Timberlake Christian Church. It will be followed by a reception, motorcade, and a 2p.m. graveside service at Virginia Memorial Park, Forest. The Rev. Ben Moore will officiate, with the Rev. Dr. Ed Parrish and the Rev. William Oliver assisting.
Mary requested that any memorial gifts be donations to the “Jack Johnson Scholarship Fund” (for college students) at Timberlake Christian Church.
The Johnson family thanks you for your kindnesses and your memories of Mom/Mary (which you may tell during her service).