Retired Baptist Home President Larry Johnson was repeatedly praised for his devotion, love and compassion during a memorial service May 21 at First Baptist Church in Farmington, Mo.
Johnson died May 12 at The Baptist Home in Arcadia Valley, Mo., at the age of 76 after a three-month battle with brain cancer.
“Larry strengthened this ministry, in every respect, with his wise and courageous leadership,” said his successor as TBH president, Stephen Jones.
Not long after he became ill, Johnson decided to return to the Arcadia Valley facility as a resident to receive care in the final weeks of his life.
His longtime pastor, Bill Miller, noted with a smile that in those final weeks, Johnson prepared six pages of notes detailing what he wanted in his funeral service, including one of his favorite Bible verses, Isaiah 40:31: “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
“I am going to miss the conversations with him, commiserating with him, complaining with him, reminiscing with him, receiving the support and encouragement he always gave,” Miller said.
Sherri Snyder, administrator of the Arcadia Valley facility, told mourners, “I am deeply indebted to Larry (for being able) to stand on his shoulders.” In his final days, she was a witness to the love of his family, she noted.
Johnson’s son, Todd, gave an emotional tribute to Johnson as a devoted and patient father, and Audrey, the eldest of five granddaughters, read from the love chapter of the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 13, to describe “Grandpa Larry.”
“To us, Grandpa was all of those,” she said. “His love was without fail,” she said as she emotionally described the ways and occasions upon which he showed his pride in and devotion to the girls.
They also described his deep appreciation of farm life and the outdoors.
Johnson was born March 12, 1940, in East Bonne Terre, Mo., the son of Rev. Noel C. Johnson and Esther Ida (Slowensky) Johnson, who preceded him in death.
He graduated in 1959 from Flat River Junior College, Southeast Missouri University (1961)and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (1964). While in seminary, he was pastor of Cold Springs Baptist Church in Battletown, Ky. He completed chaplaincy training at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in 1968.
He was a school teacher at North County Elementary School in Bonne Terre and later principal of North County Elementary School in nearby Desloge. In 1979, he became minister of education at First Baptist Church, Farmington.
In July 1984, Johnson was named “consultant to aging” at The Baptist Home in Arcadia Valley before being assigned to Chillicothe, Mo., to raise funds for the development of a home there and then to become its first administrator.
In 1990, he was named the administrator at The Baptist Home’s Arcadia Valley campus, where the TBH ministry was founded in 1913.
From 1997 until he retired in 2005 Johnson served as president of The Baptist Home, which today is in the process of developing its fourth facility in Missouri. Within the last few years, it has helped birth a similar facility in Belarus and is exploring other opportunities to encourage and assist in the care of the elderly in other overseas settings.
Survivors include his wife of 54 years, Jane (Snider) Johnson, Farmington; a son, Todd (Kimberly) Johnson, Tallahassee, Fla.; three sisters, Anna (Glenn) Branson, Farmington, Margaret Heil, Cobden, Ill., and Nancy (David) Stroud, Farmington; two aunts, Mildred Gahr and Audrey Gibbs, both of Steelville, Mo.; and five granddaughters, Audrey, Savanna, Davina, Yuly and Riza, Tallahassee.