“A good friend, a good mom and a good judge.”
That’s how Justice of the Peace Terri Johnson was remembered at her funeral Friday afternoon, in the words of her son, Harlon.
Johnson died April 26 in a car accident. Harlon, along with his brother Coy, stood courageously before hundreds of people at the First Baptist Church in Decatur, sharing memories of their mother.
“Most of everybody in Wise County, my mom has helped in some way or fashion,” Harlon, a seventh grader, said. “She was kind and sweet.”
He said he could talk to his mom about anything.
“… she would listen to every word of it,” he said. “During football season, I was No. 73. It’s precious to me because 1973 is the year my mom came into this world.”
Coy, a sophomore at Decatur High School, said one thing he was going to take away – and that he wanted everyone to remember about his mom – is that she was a servant.
“I want to leave everyone with something she told me a couple of weeks ago when I was going through a tough time: ‘Make it hard to spot the general by working like a soldier.’
“It was on her computer, and it was the first thing she saw every day and that’s how she carried her life,” he said.
Ken May, pastor of the First Baptist Church, said when talking to friends of Terri’s two things came out: Her servant-minded attitude and an “indomitable spirit.”
“Just like the picture on the screen (referencing those on the walls behind him), she was always smiling,” he said. “Her co-workers at the Sheriff’s Office said that whenever you were having a bad day, you could count on Terri to bring joy to your life.”
It was said Johnson was even-handed and firm in her grasp of justice, but was able to put those standing before her at ease.
May shared a story of a gentleman who burst into her courtroom demanding to see the judge. He was upset and angrily recounted his story as Terri calmly listened. He finally announced that he wanted to have a “man-to-man conversation with the judge,” at which time May said Terri spun around and proclaimed, “The Judge is here!” – then proceeded to help him with his concerns.
May said Terri recognized that everyone makes mistakes, and although she knew people had to be held accountable for those mistakes, she also wanted to help people move forward.
May said a quote which describes that outlook was written in the front of Terri’s Bible: “Taking care of business now, we go on, we live life, we do the best we can in everything.”
“That quote she wrote in the front of her Bible because in 2006, in the midst of running for justice of the peace, she found out she had a chronic illness,” May said.
That’s when Terri was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
May said at that time she wrote down eight songs she wanted played at her funeral, all of which were sung Friday afternoon. May said her Bible was filled with handwritten notes, and verses that carried special meaning to her were marked.
In a piece written by her husband, Craig, and read by May, he described Terri as the “most beautiful and intoxicating person in the world.”
“I loved her in the good times, and I loved her in the tough times,” he said. “And by God’s grace, she loved me, too.”
Harlon had told May that whenever he had a bad day, “all I had to do was look forward to seeing Mom.”
“And Harlon, today we will look forward the rest of our lives to see her again.,” May said.
Johnson was buried at Oaklawn Cemetery in Decatur.