After a valiant twenty year struggle with heart disease, Patricia Jane Johnson passed away June 10, 2020 in hospice care at Cape Canaveral Hospital, just across the bridge from her home in Merritt Island, Florida. The Space Coast was not her first home however. Patricia was born in Houston, Texas on August 26, 1934 to Amanda Jane Patterson and Rufus Mac Wright. She had only dim memories of her father, as she was quite young when her parents divorced and her father moved back to Mississippi.
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Growing up, her mother, Jane, was the guiding light in her life, but Patricia was also blessed with the love of her grandparents Eugene and Pearl (Deal) Patterson, her Uncle Edward W. Patterson and family, and many Deal family relations. When Patricia was a teenager, her mother married Edd T. Burleson of Streetman, Texas, who became her surrogate, much loved, father.
After graduating from Austin High School in 1953, Patricia went to work for Houston Power and Light, where she met girlfriends Jackie, Eloise and Peggy. The following year, Patricia crossed paths with her future husband, John H. Johnson, a newly commissioned 2nd Lt. in the Air Force who came from southern Utah. They were married in 1955 at James Connally A.F.B. in Waco, Texas, then proceeded on to Valdosta, Georgia for further training, and then to John’s assignment with a fighter/interceptor squadron in Presque Isle, Maine. While there, Patricia became lifelong friends with Emily Joy and James Roland Dupree, one of John’s fellow navigators. After John completed his military obligation, they returned to Houston where their two children, Cynthia Lynne Johnson and Edward Burleson Johnson, were born 7 years apart. John maintained his reserve status in the Air Force while working first as a forester, then as an insurance adjuster, while Patricia concentrated on raising their children in a creative and loving home in the new southeast Houston suburb of Beverly Hills.
Patricia was active in the Meador Elementary PTA and was a room mother. She supported Cynthia’s Girl Scout troop, was Cookie Sales Coordinator, and though she was clearly out of her element, she even camped overnight with the Scouts once, in order to help out her neighbor, friend, and Scout leader, Trudy Melvin. Patricia was a booster for Edward’s Little League teams, the Astros and the Expos, making sure they had a sponsor, uniforms, and a large team sign. She stretched her monthly income to take her children to museums, plays, ballets, symphonies, and make weekend trips out of town, giving them the opportunity to experience cultural events and visit places she didn’t have the chance to do as a child during the Depression and WWll.
Patricia was a leader with the Beverly Hills Civic Club, and helped convince the Houston Parks and Recreation Department to build a community center in the neighborhood. She was also appointed by County Commissioner Kyle Chapman to serve a term on the Houston Galveston Area Council along with her good friend Joyce Hopkins.
In 1968, at the height of the Vietnam War, John was recalled to Active Duty and shipped out overseas. Patricia managed everything on the home front during John’s long absences. Then in 1976, the year Cynthia left for college, John, Patricia and Edward moved to the Florida Space Coast where John worked at Patrick Air Force Base and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station until his retirement. They eventually bought a house on Merritt Island, where Edward graduated from high school and pursued college and his own career in the defense/space industry. Patricia was active with Edward’s Boy Scout troop for several years, helping to make many a memorable Court of Honor for the boys and while forming lasting friendships with their parents.
Patricia followed politics closely and always voted for the candidate she thought brought the most personal integrity and commitment to the needs of the community. Usually that was a Democrat, but on occasion a Republican. She was always a woman with an inquiring mind and an independent will, whether in politics, or religion, or other matters, and she encouraged the same qualities in her children. She was quietly spiritual, secure in her faith, but content to care for her family, friends and acquaintances, and to live by the Golden Rule.
Patricia enjoyed conversations with family, friends and total strangers, who by conversation’s end were strangers no longer. She enjoyed a good story and sharing a good laugh, and she never met anyone she couldn’t find something new, interesting, curious, or thought provoking to talk with about. She enjoyed cooking, but kept her own schedule, often interrupted by competing interests and ongoing conversations. Dinner might be late some nights, but it was always worth waiting for, especially when followed up with chocolate lava cake and Blue Bell ice cream.
That Patricia did not like flying is an understatement, but she loved long, leisurely car trips. Her favorite places included Wimberly and Fredricksburg, and the surrounding Texas Hill Country, the Riverwalk and Mi Tierra Café & Bakery in San Antonio, the French Quarters and Café Du Monde in New Orleans, Mesa Verde National Park and the cliff dwellings of the Pueblo people in Colorado, and the Georgia/North Carolina mountains, especially when the leaves began to turn in the early fall. She also loved the small towns and gently rolling farm and cattle country of central Texas, and was most delighted when the wild dewberries were ripe and ready to pick and eat right off the vine. Patricia was always eager to pull off the road for an inviting fruit stand, antique mall, historical marker, beautiful vista or field of flowers. Basically, she lived her life the same way she travelled, enjoying the journey and appreciating those who journeyed with her.
Patricia Jane Johnson will be buried beside her mother, step-father, and husband at the Birdston Cemetery, Streetman, Texas, near the Burleson family homestead, and just across the highway from Big Hill where many of her Deal relatives lived and are buried. Patricia is coming home again, this time for an everlasting rest under the stars in her beloved Texas. She will be greatly missed, but will always be remembered with love and gratitude by her children Cynthia and Edward, who survive her, and remain devoted to her.