Verla Jean Johnson’s lifetime of activism is one of the most diverse in our community. Born in Carthage, Mississippi, Jean joined the Air Force during the Korean War, though she was not allowed to fly.

Not until she left the service and moved to Florida did Jean learn to fly and get her private pilot license. Jean also became a real estate broker and served on the Miami Board of Realtors for 42 years until she retired in 1998.

Unlike most retirees, Jean Johnson devotes her time to community service. As she puts it, “I have worked harder since I’ve retired than I ever did before. I am very dedicated to my volunteer work.” 

Johnson served on the board of SAGE for many years, including two terms as president and still serves on that group’s Advisory Council. She is a life member of AVER —American Veterans for Equal Rights —serving as a board member for several years and as a member of the group’s Honor Guard. She also served as AVER’s chaplain for several years.

Johnson joined the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) in 1972, though she did not really get involved with the church until after her retirement. Later she volunteered to work in the Sunshine Cathedral office, filling pews, folding programs, etc. She also took courses and was ordained as the Reverend Deacon Jean Johnson a decade ago. Prior to being ordained, Johnson served on the Church’s Board of Directors. She also conducted services at Presidential Place Outreach for two years and after being ordained she continued serving as chaplain for three more years.

Johnsonenjoyed a 26-year-long partnership with Betty Priscak, who passed away in 2009. Together, Johnson and Priscak were inducted into the Dr. Nan S. Hutchison Broward Senior Hall of Fame (2005). After Priscak’s death, Johnson met and became partners with Norma Wingo, with whom she shares a home in Plantation. Johnson has received numerous awards in recognition for her community work, most recently from the Dolphin Democrats. 

She lists her hobbies as “reading, traveling and most of all, serving aging people who cannot speak out for themselves. I feel blessed to be a part of the Sunshine Cathedral.” Now in her mid-eighties, Jean is as active and energetic as ever. “I advise anyone that the secret to staying young and healthy is to stay involved.”

– Jesse Monteagudo


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