JOHNSON--Barbara Piasecka, a humanitarian, philanthropist, and collector of fine art. Following a long and complicated illness, Mrs. Barbara Piasecka Johnson passed away on April 1, 2013. A long-time resident of the Principality of Monaco, Mrs. Barbara Piasecka Johnson was born in Staniewicze, Poland in 1937. Having obtained the Bachelor-cum-Master of Arts degree in art history from the University of Wroclaw, she immigrated to the United States via Rome in 1968. In 1971, Barbara Piasecka married J. Seward Johnson, Sr., son of the founder of Johnson & Johnson. Throughout her life, Mrs. Johnson continued her numerous charitable, philanthropic, art-related, and business activities in which she was always deeply and personally involved. Among others, in 1990, she offered to make a multimillion dollar investment in the financially troubled Gdansk Shipyard, the birthplace of Solidarity. The largest public exhibition of her art that Mrs. Johnson organized, Opus Sacrum, was staged at the Royal Castle of Warsaw, Poland in 1990 and in Liechtenstein in 1991. Currently, a selection of paintings and other objects from Mrs. Johnson's Collection is on display at the Musee de la Chapelle de la Visitation in Monaco as well as at the National Museum of Poland in Poznan. By special arrangement, selected paintings are on occasion loaned to museums worldwide. Mrs. Johnson conducted her charitable activities through the Barbara Piasecka Johnson Foundation, which was established in 1974. The Foundation reaches out to the needy worldwide, however, since Mrs. Johnson's native Poland was always very close to her heart, The Foundation--in a large measure-- assists students and professionals from Poland in continuing their studies in the United States. Over the years, Mrs. Johnson also extended significant support to the Solidarity movement, the victims of martial law in Poland, various nursing homes, homes for single mothers, selected health care facilities, and a number of other important humanitarian projects. Mrs. Johnson always emphasized that she assisted the weak, the sick, and the poor simply because they needed help, and she was in the position to offer them a helping hand. For her selfless charitable work Mrs. Johnson's was recognized with many prestigious awards. During the last years of her life, Mrs. Johnson focused on a program of assistance to children and young adults with autism. Mrs. Johnson donated to the Foundation her extensive collection of paintings by Polish masters and other works of art, with all proceeds from its sale being designated to finance a long-range program to increase awareness and understanding of autism and to create a center of excellence in early autism intervention in Poland that will give autistic children the chance for normal lives. As part of this mission, the Foundation established The Institute for Child Development (Instytut Wspomagania Rozwoju Dziecka) in Gdansk, Poland (www.iwrd.pl)--a non-profit organization, which now offers world-class science-based therapy to children with autism and assistance to their families, conducts scientific studies of autism therapy, and offers training for professionals specializing in autism. The Institute is modeled on and closely cooperates with the Princeton Child Development Institute in the United States, a world leader in the field. She was an amazing woman and a genuinely remarkable human being who will be sorely missed by her family and friends. In lieu of flowers, donations to the Barbara Piasecka Johnson Foundation can be sent to 4519 Province Line Road, Princeton, NJ 08540, USA.
Published in The New York Times on Apr. 3, 2013