But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are sleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. I Thessalonians 13-14
The man, The myth, The legend…The Tiger. Today we pause to celebrate the life of our beloved, Darnell DeWayne “Tray” Johnson II, a loving and caring son, a devoted brother, an awesome grandson, special nephew, a loving godson, godbrother, cousin, classmate, coach, and friend.
In the early morning hours of Wednesday, July 22, 2020, Tray tragically passed away as a result of injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident involving a drunk driver.
Darnell DeWayne Johnson II, lovingly called “Tray” by his family and close friends was born on May 28, 1992, at Berrien General Hospital in Berrien Center, Michigan, to his loving parents Stacey Mitchell-Johnson and Darnell Johnson Sr.
On September 23, 2018, “Tray” formally accepted Christ as his Personal Savior at the Israelite Missionary Baptist Church in Benton Harbor, MI, and was baptized on September 30, 2018, under the leadership of the Rev. Joe N. Bruin. He was a faithful member of the Music Department and loved playing the drums for the church. In October of 2019, he united with the New Bethel Baptist Church under the pastoral guidance of Pastor Maurice McAfee. “Tray” truly loved the Lord with all his heart and soul and knew that Christianity did not exempt one from death but that it ensured triumph over death.
Growing up, “Tray” had a loving village of people whom he loved dearly, and they loved him too. He never met a stranger. Family meant everything to him and being the first son, grandson and nephew on both sides of his family, his parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, great-grandmother whom he affectionately called “Grandma Christian”, the McCree family, Uncle and his favorite teacher, Emma Goodloe, just to mention a few, loved him and poured into him, in ways that made him the gregarious, talented and determined young man he became in this life and he definitely paid it forward.
At the age of 14, “Tray” underwent a 6 ½ hour surgery at the Detroit Children’s Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, on his brain, after suffering with what was diagnosed as Focal Seizures. This was a very difficult time for “Tray” as the family had a difficult decision to make as it related to surgery. When “Tray” found out that he would not be able to play sports in high school, he prayed and went to his mother and told her that the Lord told him that everything was going to be alright and he wanted to have the surgery; he did, and the rest is history.
Through hours of rehabilitation, tutorials, affirmations, and prayer, “Tray” was determined to live his life as normal as possible and he did. You could always depend on “Tray” and very seldom, if ever, did he say “No”. No matter how big or small the occasion, he would show up willing to lend a helping hand. It wasn’t unusual for “Tray” to call those he loved out of the blue and say “I Love You” or when you least expected it, you would wake up to a text from him saying, “This “Tray” just thinking about you” or just show up at your door. Many of us have these meaningful touches and special memories of “Tray”.
He was formally educated in the Benton Harbor Area Schools and was a proud graduate in the Class of 2010, the infamous “Class of Dimes” of which he served on the Class Cabinet and was the Class Treasurer. He was a member of the Benton Harbor Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Incorporated, Guide Right Program – Kappa League, a finalist in the Mr. Benton Harbor Contest where he gave a stirring platform presentation entitled, “The Heart of A Community”, he received both Junior Varsity & Varsity letters in football, he played baseball, freshman basketball, Tiger Marching Band, Tiger Mascot, Volunteer for the Mr. & Miss Benton Harbor Contest and was the first Little Mr. Benton Harbor Prince.
Upon graduation from high school, Darnell attended Lake Michigan College and in 2013, he started his semi-professional football career as a member of the Lake Michigan “Havoc” Semi-Pro Football Team where he played Defensive Back. In 2018, he transitioned to the Kalamazoo “Titans” where he played wearing the #10. This season of his life was very rewarding, and he lived by these words, “Team First No Matter What”. In 2018, the “Titans” won the State Championship and in 2019, the team won the National Championship. He felt accomplished and retired at the end of the season because he said he wanted to retire on top.
“Tray” was a loving, caring, and compassionate young man who had a love for humanity as evidenced by the types of employment positions he held throughout his life. He was employed by EduStaff Educational Institution for Benton Harbor Area Schools as both a paraprofessional & security guard, a patient care technician for L.A.D.D. Incorporated, a resident care assistant at Woodland Terrace, healthcare aide at Alliance Healthcare Services, direct care staff at Beacon Specialized Living Services, a scheduler at Westwood of Bridgeman and a cleaning specialist at Express Employment Professionals.
“Tray” loved hot wings, sports and carried on the Mitchell family tradition of being a true-blue Michigan Wolverine fan. He loved the Chicago Bulls as a child and the Los Angeles Lakers and most definitely was a ride or die Benton Harbor High School “TIGER”.
His true passion was working with the children of the community, mentoring, and coaching. He wanted them to know that they could achieve anything in their lives as he had done if they believed in themselves. He had so many plans as he was looking forward to moving into his first apartment, officially becoming the godfather during the christening of his goddaughter, Payten Denise Morgan, and being a groomsman at the wedding of his aunt Monique. We were blessed to learn many life lessons from “Tray” during his 28 years of living.
If you want to do one thing to keep “Tray’s” legacy alive...Please Don’t Drink and Drive. He will truly be missed always and forever.
Tray will forever be remembered in the hearts of his loving parents, Stacey (Merle) Mitchell and Darnell (Terri) Johnson Sr, both of Benton Harbor, godfather, Fred (Petie) Gilmore, (1) sister, Genesis Johnson of Benton Harbor, (2) brothers, Isaac and Isaiah Johnson of Benton Harbor, (2) aunts, Sonya (Rob) Caldwell and Ronnella (Lamar) Booker of Benton Harbor; (1) uncle, Ryan (Lorri) Mitchell of Benton Harbor, maternal grandparents, Don C. and Jeri Mitchell of Benton Harbor, paternal grandparents, Jean (Spencer) Nesbitt, and George (Vera) Johnson of Moss Point, MS, and a host of great-aunts, great-uncles, cousins, classmates, teammates, colleagues, family, and friends.
He was preceded in death by his maternal great-grandparents, Mattie Frazier-Haithcox and Jimmy Frazier, Don P. and Katherine Mitchell; paternal great-grandparents Mother Ellen Christian and Nathaniel Gooseberry (2) great-aunts, Christine McCoy and Janice Baker; great-uncles, Gary Mitchell, Stephen Mitchell, Francis Baker, Tommy Sims, William Holloway, and Tyrone Banks.
“In life we have pleasures with our loved ones; we have sorrows and joy but thank God for the memories that death cannot destroy.”
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