Mary Johnson

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Mary Barb Johnson

LAKE FOREST, IL—Mary Barb Johnson, 93, died in her sleep Friday morning, July 19, 2013, at the Westmoreland Nursing Home in Lake Forest, less than three months after her husband of 70 years, William B. Johnson died.

Mrs. Johnson will be buried next to William at the Johnson family cemetery in a private ceremony in Salisbury. She died of natural causes, though she struggled with Alzheimer's disease for most of the last decade.

Mary Barb, as she was called by many, studied law at the University of Pennsylvania, where she met her classmate and future husband, William Johnson. She practiced law in Philadelphia for several years before leaving the firm to raise her family. She served on the Upper Merion School Board while living in Wayne, Pa. and continued her civic work as the family relocated, first to Greenwich, Conn., and then to Lake Forest. She was particularly active in Lake Forest government, serving two terms as Alderman for the first ward, two terms on the zoning board, and a term on the Library Board.

Mrs. Johnson was also the first woman trustee of Lake Forest Hospital, serving from 1985-1995. She was not shy, she advocated from the heart, and, with a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, she made an impact. Notable activities in her Lake Forest public service career include her work on the beach renovation, a confrontation with Mr. T over his chain saw and the controversies over building lot sizes and the permit for the MacDonald's on Waukegan road.

Other community service included the Woman's Boards of University of Chicago, Northwestern University and Lake Forest College, and she was a leader in the renowned "Know Your Chicago Committee." Mary Barb served the state as a member of the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board and the Federal Government as a lawyer in the Federal Defender's Program in Chicago.

But she was first and foremost the partner of Bill Johnson, helping him navigate the complexities and demands of a much honored law and business career. In his business auto biography, "Conglomerate," he says in the dedication to her:

"From the first time I met Mary Catherine Barb in September 1940, when we were both first-year students at the University of Pennsylvania Law School; she has been the most important factor in my life. I may not survive her, and, if I do, neither my life or my work would mean much without her."

The daughter of a physician whom she assisted as a teenager in his office in their home, she was a resourceful and loving mother who was particularly good in emergencies. According to her son Kirk, "When you got hurt or had a disappointment she was always there - she never failed. The worse the problem, the more calm and effective she was."

Mrs. Johnson is survived by her sons, Ben and Kirk; her daughter Kathleen Browning; and her six grandchildren, Will, Olivia, Eileen, Grace, Ben and John.

A memorial service will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago at 225 E. Chicago Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60611. Local arrangments are in the care of Holloway Funeral Home PA, 501 Snow Hill Rd., Salisbury, MD 21804. Please visit to send condolences to the family.


Funeral Home
Holloway Funeral Home
501 Snow Hill Road Salisbury, MD 21804
(410) 742-5141
Funeral Home Details
Published in The Daily Times on July 23, 2013
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