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Viola Johnson

August 21, 1929 — June 8, 2024

Battle Creek

Viola Johnson

Viola “Vi” Victoria Johnson, 94, Battle Creek, MI passed away on June 8, 2024 at University of Michigan Health–Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, MI.

 Viola was born in West Monroe, LA to Garfield and Viola Johnson on August 21, 1929. She went to high school at Monroe High School and graduated as valedictorian, in 1946 in Monroe, LA. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in food and nutrition from Southern University in Baton Rouge, LA. She took her first job with the Veterans Administration (VA) right of out college, in 1952, in dietetic service and served at VA hospitals in MD, PA and IN before being named head of dietetic service at the Battle Creek facility in 1968. In October 1971, she was the first African American woman selected for the highly competitive hospital director training program and was assigned to the VA’s Research Center in Chicago, Illinois. After a year of training, she was named assistant director of the Fayetteville VA Medical Center in North Carolina. She held the post until November 1973 when she was assigned to the VA headquarters in Washington, D.C. She was named assistant administrator in May 1976 of Lyons VA Medical Center in NJ. She was then selected as director of the Las Vegas, NV outpatient clinic before accepting the director’s position at the Battle Creek VA Medical Center where she made history as the first African American woman administrator of a major VA Medical Center, serving from 1984 until retirement in 1989.

 Vi believed in giving back and supporting her community with her time, talent, and treasures. She had served on several boards, some included the United Way, Battle Creek Civic Theatre; the American Red Cross; the State’s Advisory Council on Aging; and was a lifelong Kiwanian, the first woman member of the local Battle Creek Kiwanis Club, serving as a past president. A master gardener, her love for the outdoors showed through her volunteerism with the Leila Arboretum Society, serving on the board for many years, and a beautifully landscaped lawn. She enjoyed travel, a good conversation and healthy debate, keeping up with current affairs, gardening and her three beloved pet Schnauzer’s, all named Skypper.

 An only child, she was preceded in death by her parents, and grandparents, Albert and Loretta Theus. She is survived by cousins Elombe “Lee” (Timiza) Wagner of Oakland, CA and their daughter Asha (Christie) McNickle-Wagner of Concord, CA; Ovis Stone Massey, Cordelia Sims of Las Vegas, NV; Yvonne Henry of Carson, CA; John Harris of Baton Rouge, LA; Effie Fort, John Fort of Stockton, CA; Patsy Bennett, Ida Gantt and Margaret Madison of Oakland, CA. Caregiver and longtime family friend, Lynn Ward Gray.

 Visitation will be held from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m., Monday, June 24, 2024, at Richard A. Henry Funeral Home, 703 Capital Ave SW, Battle Creek, MI, where a memorial service to celebrate Viola’s life will begin at 1:00 p.m. Pastor William J. Wyne of Second Missionary Baptist Church officiating. The service will be live-streamed and may be viewed at https://www.henryfuneralhome.org/obituaries/viola-johnson .

 Memorial donations may be made to the Viola V. Johnson Fund for Leila Arboretum Society at the Battle Creek Community Foundation, 32 W Michigan Ave., Battle Creek, MI or the Kiwanis International Foundation a/k/a Kiwanis Children’s Fund, 3636 Woodview Trace, Indianapolis, IN.

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Past Services

Visitation

Monday, June 24, 2024

12:00 - 1:00 pm (Eastern time)

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Memorial Service

Monday, June 24, 2024

1:00 - 2:00 pm (Eastern time)

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