Pamela Johnson

Obituary of Pamela E. Johnson

Pamela E. Johnson December 2, 1944 – March 14, 2022 Pamela and I met on November 8, 1980. It was a blind date arranged by a friend, to attend Death of a Salesman at Pittsburgh Public Theater. She had bought the tickets for the play, and just before I got to her apartment in Highland Park, PPT called to tell her the evening performance had been canceled. What to do? We agreed that we’d go to a movie instead, but this was over a decade before the Internet, and Pamela had no newspaper. I did have a newspaper at my house in Point Breeze, though, so we drove there to check out the listings, and… we never left my house that night. Pamela stayed with me in the house that we shared for 41 years, until the night she died. We fell hopelessly in love with each other that night, so we, Ray Calvert Williams and Pamela Johnson, were married July 4, 1982. Pamela had been born exactly eight weeks after I was, at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington DC – both of us “Saturday’s children” who have to work for a living. Pamela was the first of three girls born to Roy Verner Johnson and Alice Yvonne Bouchat, originally of Natrona Heights. Both of Pamela’s sisters, Jenifer Johnson and Alice Rebecca Zellefrow (Chuck) survive. Pamela and I chose not to have children, so our beloved niece, Christine Cato (Mark) and Christine’s two children, Devlin and Lucien, remain to continue the Johnson/Bouchat line. Pamela was also godmother to Molly McLaughlin Wetmore, an honor she took very seriously and carried out with love. Pamela taught English and Creative Writing in the Pittsburgh Public Schools at the high school level her entire career, 1968-1999. She started at Allegheny High School, and later in her career taught one year at Schenley High School, and another at Oliver High School, but most of her career was spent at Peabody High School, where she founded the Creative Writing Program and ran the computer lab so that her student writers would have the technology to assemble and publish their own award-winning journal of writing and art/photography, “Beyond.” Then, in her final year of teaching, she moved to the newly formed Pittsburgh High School for the Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA) to found the Creative Writing Program there, which has lived on as her legacy. She is greatly missed by the many students, colleagues and friends whose lives she has touched. In our life together, we were runners of 10Ks, touring bicyclists, cross-country and downhill skiers (many trips to Colorado for spring skiing), annual dudes at the R-Lazy-S Ranch in Jackson Hole WY, sailboat racers with the Moraine Sailing Club, and vacation travelers to Australia, Singapore & Hong Kong, and Europe (mostly Germany, but also England, France, and Spain). Usually, we traveled to the more exotic places because of my work. Sadly, though, Pamela’s beautiful and outwardly strong body began to let her down after she retired from teaching. We left running and bicycling behind because of her arthritis. Skiing and horseback riding brought broken bones from falls. Lupus, osteoporosis, and autoimmune retinopathy came to her in a cluster beginning around 2001. Mostly she held the diseases off valiantly, but the progressive loss of her vision was a disease even her eternal optimism could not defeat. For a woman who had lived a life and career centered on reading, the prospect of going blind slowly crushed her will to live. When she could no longer read, I read to her nightly. “Smoldering” multiple myeloma was diagnosed through markers in her blood in 2018, but she chose not to fight it with chemo, waiting for actual symptoms of the disease to appear. The symptoms came on suddenly and aggressively, sweeping her away in five short months. Multiple myeloma wrecked her spine and ultimately killed her body, but vision loss had killed her will to live long before that. We always did everything together, and whenever Pamela had to stop an activity we both loved, I stopped it with her. Now she has left me behind where I can’t follow. I brought her to a house I had prepared for her 41 years ago, and my faith tells me that she has now gone ahead “to prepare a place for me.” A Rite 1 Burial of the Dead for Pamela, with augmented choral music, will be held at St. Andrews Episcopal Church, 5801 Hampton Street, Highland Park, on Saturday, April 23, 2022, at 2:00 PM, followed by a reception for all who attend the service.