ODESSA - Herbert L. Johnson, 97, of Odessa, Texas, died Jan. 3, 2024, at his home in Odessa.
Visitation will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 11, at Sunset Memorial Gardens, 6801 E. Business 20, Odessa. Funeral services will be 10 a.m., Friday, Jan. 12, at First Baptist Church Odessa, 709 N Lee Ave, with Dr. Byron McWilliams officiating. Burial will follow at Sunset Memorial Gardens.
Herbert was born Oct. 5, 1926, in Terrell, Texas, the youngest of seven children. While he was still a toddler, the Great Depression arrived, and his childhood — while often fondly recalled later with tales of Billy the horse or hunting barn rats with his .22 — was also hard in a way no child’s youth should ever have to be hard.
But Herb was a hard worker. As a child, he worked at the service stations of his older brothers while he also went to school. He graduated from Levelland High School in 1944 and then was drafted into the U.S. Army with the expectation he would be part of the invasion of the Japanese home islands to end World War II. Instead, two atomic bombs and the surrender of the last Axis power in 1945 meant that Herbert got to focus on procuring better supplies for his platoon like when he ran into people from his high school responsible for managing vittles (“It’s not what you know but who you know”). And Herb didn't drown when his fellow soldiers tossed him into the water to try to teach a West Texas boy to swim, and he wasn’t shot informing Japanese regiments in the Philippines their empire had surrendered, and his ship didn't capsize in a storm on a trip back home across the Pacific.
After all this, Herb thought he might have at least earned a few weeks of rest back home; he was mistaken. The older Johnson brothers put him to work in the office at their oil company immediately. A year later he met a burger joint server named Betty Jo Bullard. This terribly shy man took the step of initiating a relationship with her, and Sept. 5, 1948, he married the love of his life; their three children were born during the next five years. A neighbor invited them to First Baptist Church where they came to know Jesus and raised their family in the church; he was a member for 68 years until his death, a deacon, and always an example of what a Christian man ought to be.
Herbert worked at Johnson Bros. for 70 years, then in 2016 he retired; shortly after, the family business sold and lives on. He expected to have a few more years with Betty enjoying their time together, but her breast cancer came back, and in 2017, he lost her. After that, there was always a hole in him that nothing else could fill. We should all be so lucky as Herb and Betty.
For all this, still his family was glad to have him in their lives, to play games with "Papa" at his kitchen table, to be allowed to acknowledge him as an elder for his great-grandchildren. Herb lived long enough to be remembered by all of them. It may be many years yet till the youngest understands the gift of this, but what a gift.
Herb’s family often assumed his path to his heavenly home would be some sort of needlessly dangerous activity at an advanced age — falling off some too-high roof, pushing himself too far while applying a coat of paint in the West Texas summer despite a heart condition that had felled all his older brothers; instead Herb passed away in an otherwise uneventful afternoon in his own bed in his own home with his children nearby to share a prayer over him. Nothing now keeps him separated from the love of his life; nothing now prevents him from enjoying his earned rest. His work is finished, but the fruits of his work live on.
Herbert is preceded in death by his father William and mother Pauline; his brothers Homer, Roy, and Ernest Johnson; and his sisters Edith Deaton, Louise Bible, and Bernice Meeks.
He is survived by his daughter Donna Dendy and her husband Larry; sons Gary Johnson and wife Laurie, and David H. Johnson and wife Deborah; grandchildren Tony Carimi and wife Debbie; Jason Carimi and wife Susan; Christy Vines and husband Chaney; and David A. Johnson; and his great-grandchildren Kylie and Kellyn Carimi, Katelynn, Julia, Michael, and Tyler Vines, and Alexis and Logan Shaud. Special thanks also to caregivers Annette, Melissa, Sonia, Velma, Aledia, and Abby that took care of him in the evenings of his last days.
Honorary pallbearers are Tony Carimi, Jason Carimi, David A. Johnson, Chaney Vines, Mark Donaldson, Doug Chisum, Lee Robinson, and Alan Griffin.
In lieu of flowers memorials may be given to First Baptist Church of Odessa, Odessa College Foundation, or the charity of your choice.