Obituary: Rev. Allie Mae Johnson | Longtime preacher, beloved mother figure
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Five years ago inside the Pentecostal Temple Church in Larimer, Pastor Loran Mann finished introducing the Rev. Allie Mae Johnson, then strode to her chair to help her to the podium. After all, she was 101 years old. Rev. Johnson waved him off. She grabbed the arms of her chair, pulled herself up and walked to the podium. She preached for half an hour and left to a standing ovation.
Rev. Johnson died Friday at the age of 106. But the people she touched during a lifetime as a mother figure to those she met in her preaching, evangelizing and community work remember the same determination and way with people she showed at that church five years ago.
Born in Graham, Ala., and raised in Carrollton, Ga., she moved to Pittsburgh in 1929 to live with her brother while attending Hardy Bible School in the Hill District.
As a nondenominational Christian minister, she then preached and evangelized with churches in Blairsville, Indiana, Jeannette and the West End. More churches, including Pentecostal Temple Church in Larimer and The Lord's Church of Pittsburgh in Monroeville, adopted her as a church mother -- though she and her husband, Hobson Johnson, who died 20 years ago, had no biological children.
"She kind of mothered many people," said Denise White, 58, of Wilkinsburg, a Pentecostal Temple Church member who came to view Rev. Johnson as her mother when her own mother passed.
Mary Hill, 73, of Homewood, said she knew Rev. Johnson because her mother evangelized with her, but she attached herself to Rev. Johnson further when her mother died in 1995.
They talked on the phone several times a week, always ending with prayer. She said sometimes Rev. Johnson's advice was so good she wrote it down in her Bible so she would not forget it.
When Ms. Hill's sister decided to start a new church in Homewood three years ago, she was unsure whether to leave her church and join her until Rev. Johnson gave some of her advice.
"Out of the clear blue sky, she said, 'You know, you go there and help her.' And when she said that, I knew it was straight from God," Ms. Hill said.
Rev. Johnson lived in the same house on Kedron Street in Homewood for more than 70 years. She would sit on her porch chatting with neighbors passing by.
The granddaughter of a slave, Rev. Johnson was a trailblazer, Rev. Mann said. "Allie Mae Johnson was ahead of her time because she was preaching and it wasn't popular for women to do that at the time," Rev. Mann said. She preached "wherever a door was open," he said.
She lived at home until 2009, when she moved to Highland Park Care Center in East Liberty, where she died in her sleep Friday.
Visitation will be today at 11 a.m. until the service at 12:30 p.m. Both are at George A. Warden Funeral Home, 1100 N. Homewood Ave. in Homewood.
First Published July 25, 2012 12:00 am