Together we gather to honor a loving father, a caring grandfather, a devoted brother, an honest uncle, a respectful nephew, a loyal and giving friend and a dedicated, accomplished, and hardworking entrepreneur.
On Saturday, January 21, 2023, Leon Johnson, affectionately called “Red and Sonny” by his loving family and close friends transitioned to his heavenly home unexpectedly at the home he lived in for nearly 50 years.
Leon “Red” Johnson was born to the Christian lineage of the late Thomas and Millie Marie Wilder Johnson on July 9, 1948, in Independence, Louisiana, and was preceded in death by his parents, Thomas and Millie, four sisters, Patricia Ann Johnson, Freddie Lee Johnson, Rosie Youngblood and Eva Louise Johnson; three brothers, Robert Johnson, Charlie Johnson and Jerry Johnson and his beloved son, Ian Lamar Johnson.
In life we have pleasures with our loved ones, we have sorrows and joys, but thank God for the memories that death cannot destroy. This statement holds true as we reflect on a life full of love, a life well lived, and a life tragically ended too soon by our measure.
In 1968, Red moved to Benton Harbor, Michigan, and came here with many skills and talents. His legacy was that of a stern, yet loving father who you could talk to about anything. He was known for giving it to you straight, even if you didn’t like what he was saying. He said what he meant and meant what he said. He was a protector. He watched over those he cared for and worked to instill strong values in his children and those around him.
He was a real-estate investor in both Michigan and Louisiana, a skilled carpenter through Job-Co, a martial art’s purple belt and taught martial arts to youth in Benton Harbor, he was adventurous and was a true southern boy in the Midwest. Red never forgot his southern roots.
To know Red was to love him. He was one of the hardest working people in this community and was never afraid to get down and get his hands dirty. One of the things he loved most throughout his life was being a farmer. He loved gardening and he helped many people, especially his neighbors and friends start gardens in their yards. You could oftentimes find Red distributing fresh fruit and vegetables to senior citizens and just recently, he helped his daughter Ashley start the, “Flourish Community Garden,” of which he managed and was truly proud of that experience.
He loved fishing and as a young man, he enjoyed hunting. Red also loved listening to music especially the oldies but goodies and most definitely the blues. He loved watching old westerns, driving fast cars, and acquiring all things vintage and was an avid collector of keepsakes.
Red was extremely community oriented, and he would help anyone and that alone makes this very difficult to bear. He owned and managed several businesses in Benton Harbor, the Sheik Clothing Store, a Record Store on Main Street, Empire’s Ice Cream Parlor, Uncle Al’s Barbeque with his close friend Elbert Jones and bought and re-opened the G & W Skating Rink. His entrepreneurship inspired many young African Americans in Benton Harbor to pursue their goals.
He always looked out for the young people in Benton Harbor and was loved and respected by all who knew him. Benton Harbor will never be the same and we will always remember those ‘special nuggets’ he dropped in our lives just because that was who he was. He will forever be missed.
Our loss is truly Heaven’s gain. Rest In Power Red. You will truly be missed in every moment of life that remains.
Leon “Red” Johnson will forever be remembered in the hearts of his beautiful daughters, Latasha Williams (Kevin) of Victorville, California, Shelana Johnson of Grand Rapids, MI, Doneala Hines and Ashley Hines, both of Benton Harbor, MI; four sons, Keenan Leon Johnson of Dallas, TX, Michael Hines and Ryan Johnson of Benton Harbor, MI, Douglas Hines, of South Bend, IN, and Terrance Gunn of Mississippi; one brother, Donald Ray Johnson of Harvey, LA; 16 grandchildren; his once companions, turned friends, Donna Broyles and Lucy Nelson; his life-long friends, Darryl Long, Dennis Guidry, Thomas C. Yates, Tommy Miles, Lerot Waters, Reggie Collins, and Michael Jenkins; chosen son, Josh Koebel, and a host of loving nieces, nephews, cousins, family and friends.
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