Zelmaree Underwood Johnson

Published 4:07 pm Friday, March 2, 2018

Memorial Service for Zelmaree Underwood Johnson

Born June 8, 1921 near Hampton, Arkansas, the 5th child of Frances Tenala Pearce Underwood and Christopher Columbus Morrison Underwood.

She was eight months old when, legend has it, her father was ambushed on his way into town to testify in a criminal trial. It was a terrible loss, forcing her mother to become the family’s sole provider. Many a hated day was spent picking cotton. Worse, Mama had to quit school after the 5th grade in order to contribute to the family income and because there were no school buses back then for the rural children.

Mama loved reading and became a life-long reader, thereby getting the education she missed. She was given a used Bible at an early age, and Christianity became her touchstone for life. In bad times in her adult life, her faith was the source of her strength.

When she wanted to enroll in a college-level Bible class and was told she would need a high school diploma to enroll, she lost no time in getting a GED. With her General Education Diploma in hand, she enrolled, then passed the course with high marks. She used her training to enrich the lessons she taught as a Sunday School teacher. Mama was a Sunday School teacher for over 60 years, ending her career at the First Baptist Church in Florien.

To summarize a life of 96 years is a daunting task. What to say? What to leave out? Here is what mattered to her: Faith; family; friends; gardening; fresh flowers in the house; reading; word play; cooking and eating, especially sweets; fishing; dressing fashionably; travel and adventure; writing, especially poetry; television westerns and The Andy Griffin show, especially Barney Fife; wildlife; pine trees.

Zelma’s soul broke free of her failing body and mind in the early hours of February 26, 2018.

Zelma was preceded in her transition by her mother and father; her beloved playmate and partner, Gilbert Albert “Johnny” Johnson; three of her children: David Ray Hill; Richard Allen Hill; Vickie Jones Dean; by all her sisters and brothers; and by grandchildren Jordan Nasrawi and Lyndie Morgan Scales.

She is survived by her children, both born-of and step-:Ann Hill Dzuik of Wimberley, TX; Reatha Hill Nasrawi of Cypress, TX; Reba Sue Hill Murphy of Balch Springs, TX; Hollis Hill of Hallsville, TX; Chris Johnson of Hornbeck, LA; Mary Johnson Griffin of Orange, TX. She was blessed with 20 grandchildren, 18 are still living; 22 great-grandchildren; and one great-great-grandchild. Also surviving her are nieces, nephews, a cousin or two, and numerous friends.

Mrs. Johnson was interred in Florien Cemetery on Friday, March 2 following a memorial service at First Baptist Church in Florien.