Evelyn Johnson was born on February 13, 1927, as the only child of the late William Henry Beasley and the late Margie (Thorpe) Beasley in Durham, North Carolina. She passed away peacefully in hospice at the Whitehills Convalescent Center and Nursing Home on December 8, 2015, in East Lansing, Michigan.
Evelyn lived with her parents on a sprawling agricultural farm on the outskirts of Durham, where her father was a gardener for his employer. She accepted Christ as her Savior in her youth. At sixteen years of age, she was admitted to North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro, a historically black institution founded in 1891. For a year, she studied business administration before transferring to Howard University (also known as “the Mecca”) in Washington, D.C.
Evelyn began playing the piano as a little girl and was very talented and gifted. She would listen to songs on the radio and then play them perfectly by ear. She would play the piano for family and friends and could often be heard taking requests for old jazz and gospel favorites. At Howard, she majored in piano and music composition. She participated in concerts and recitals on campus, and her music professors encouraged her to embark on a professional career as a concert pianist.
Her parents moved from Durham to Lansing, Michigan, in the1940s when her father was hired at Fisher Body, which was a division of General Motors. Evelyn also moved to Lansing from Washington, D.C. to be with her mother and father. She was a very attractive, slender, striking young woman with long, wavy black hair who was promptly hired at the cosmetics counter of the J.W. Knapps department store in downtown Lansing. In 1950, she married Rayford B. Johnson, Sr. Seven children—five boys and two girls—were born into their union, which endured for nearly fifty-seven years until his death in December 2007.
When her children were older, Evelyn began working as a microfiche processor at American Bank and Trust Company in downtown Lansing in the 1960s. When she heard the United States Post Office was hiring, she took their mandatory entrance examination and scored 98 points out of 100. She was a mail carrier and a special delivery clerk, receiving several citations for having an excellent safety record before retiring in the early 1980s.
Evelyn was an accomplished pinochle and bid whist player and enjoyed playing cards during the week and on weekends with her husband, friends, and family. When on summer vacation, she took pleasure in camping with her husband and children in the beautiful state forests of northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. She was an events coordinator for the P.T.A. at Michigan Avenue elementary where her children attended school and was known for her elegant penmanship in notes and other correspondence. Although she often said she was not a good cook, her family certainly looked forward to the magic she made in the kitchen, which included delicious homemade lemonade, lemon meringue pie, peach cobbler, sweet potato pie, potato salad, holiday dressing, and fried chicken.
Evelyn is lovingly remembered by: a son, Rayford B. Johnson, Jr., of Lansing, a son, Robin (Donna) of Detroit, a daughter, Margie (Lezley) McCall of Detroit, a son, Jay, of Opa Locka, FL, a daughter, Jacqueline (Randy) Johnson, of Dallas, TX, a son, Timothy, of Lansing, and a son, Patrick, of Pontiac. Evelyn’s oldest son was the late William Saunders Beasley of Chicago, IL. There are fourteen grandchildren and one great-grandchild, and she has a number of nieces, nephews, cousins, and many friends.
The children of Evelyn Johnson sincerely acknowledge the many heartfelt cards, telephone calls, floral tributes, and other acts of kindness received during our time of bereavement. Individual recognition of your generosity will be expressed in the near future.
A graveside service will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Friday, December 18, 2015, at Fort Custer National Cemetery in Augusta, MI. Her family will receive friends from 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. on Friday, December 18th at the Estes-Leadley Greater Lansing Chapel.
“You can shed tears because she is gone, or you can smile because she has lived. Your heart can be empty because you cannot see her, or your heart can be full of the love you shared. You can remember her only that she is gone, or you can cherish her memory and let it live on. You can do what she would want: smile, open your eyes, love, and go on.”
—David Harkins, English painter and poet, from the poem “Remember Me,” 1982
FINAL ARRANGEMENTS ENTRUSTED TO:
Estes-Leadley Funeral Home
325 W. Washtenaw Street
Lansing, MI 48933
Fort Custer National Cemetery
15501 Dickman Road
Augusta, MI 49012