OTTUMWA — Robert W. Johnson, 74, of Attleboro, Mass., died July 15, 2013, at Cortland Place, Smithfield., R.I.
He was the husband of Maxine (Frahm) Johnson. He was born in Ottumwa, a son of the late Kenneth and Wilma (Gordon) Johnson.
Bob was a lifelong church musician. At age 16, he started his professional career as a paid organist in a church in his hometown. Through high school and college, he studied and played the organ, piano and string bass. After receiving his master's degree in sacred music, he was employed as a minister of music in Setauket, N.Y. Subsequently, he took a position later in Fox Chapel, Pa. After moving to the Boston area in 1982, he was the minister of music at the Pilgrim Church in Sherborn, Mass. In 1985, he became the minister of music at the Second Church of Newton. He stayed in that position until he retired in 2005. During his time in the Boston area, he was the director of the Highland Glee Club for 14 years and taught private lessons on the piano and organ. When he retired, he continued in church music by substituting for other organists and choir directors and singing in the choir at the Second Congregational Church in Attleboro.
Bob enjoyed traveling, hiking, gardening, reading, watching baseball and football games, exercising at the Y, swimming, listening to music, photography, good food and wine, family events and activities. He was a member of the American Guild of Organists (AGO) throughout his career and was very active with his local chapters. As a college student, he was a member of the Des Moines AGO chapter and won their annual competition in organ playing. He earned the designation of “Colleague of the American Guild of Organists,” CAGO. He was the dean of the Pittsburgh AGO and editor of the Boston Music Calendar for many years, as well as assuming other responsibilities with the Guild. He sang in the chorus that performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from time to time. In the Boston area, he sang regularly in the Masterworks Chorale for many years and frequently accompanied the chorus in rehearsals. After he retired, he volunteered at the Literacy Center and ran the Scholarship Audition for the Chaminade Music Club. Both organizations are located in Attleboro, Mass. Bob received much praise and applause for the countless programs, recitals, concerts, Sunday morning music, etc., that he prepared, performed and conducted. Very often, he wrote his own arrangements of music to fit the combination of singers and instrumentalists. The production that he was most proud of was “Amahl and the Night Visitors” at the Second Church of Newton, Mass. He received exceptional volunteer assistance in putting this one-act opera together and performing it for the church and community.
Bob earned the love and admiration of his choir members and ministers for his musicianship, dedication to his work and skills in working with people. He had a clever sense of humor, which was enjoyed admired and commented upon by many as he journeyed down the path with Alzheimer’s disease. In May 2013, just two months before he died, he was asked by a nurse: “How are you?" He responded, “Bored as beets!” Bob was a wonderful listener. Many individuals confided with him about issues. He will be deeply missed by his family, friends and music lovers from near and far.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by two daughters, Brenda Johnson and her husband Robert Barringer of Charlton, N.Y., and Janine Johnson and her husband Marc Dahl of Eagle River, Alaska. He was brother of Philip Johnson and wife Barbara of Oak Hill, Va.; cousin of Dr. Peter Acker and Caroline Acker; and uncle of Tim Johnson of Portland, Ore., Kenneth Johnson of Sterling, Va., and David Johnson of Centreville, Va.
A memorial service will be held at a later date.
In lieu of flowers donations in his memory may be made to Alzheimer’s Association or American Cancer Society.