By Barney Blakeney
In every generation there comes along someone who harkens memories of days gone by, when behavior was determined by lessons learned in youth. Someone who reminds us that the substance of who we are is not bounded by contemporary comfort and motivates us to do just a little more –because that’s who we can be. Wilfred Johnson is such a person. June 23 the members of Wesley UMC in Charleston recognized Johnson as “Man of the Year” for his unfailing service to his family, his church and his community.
At 76, Johnson remains a steadfast, nonstop servant who constantly bellows, “Work don’t stop. You Stop!” A son of Henry and Katie Johnson, Wilferd Johnson was raised in rural Berkeley County and attended Howe Hall Elementary School. He often recalls admonitions from his grandmother who raised him, to never be idle. It’s a work ethic he took with him to Wesley UMC which he joined in 1956 and to Burke High School where he graduated from in 1961.
A father of eight children, Johnson’s mantra of hard work, service and productivity carried over into his life as a long time employee at the General Electric plant in Ladson and his church. The endless work he puts forth stands out as a member of the Male Choir, the Combined Choir, current vice chairman of the Board of Trustees having served from 2008-2015 as its chair and as a teacher of the Adult Sunday School class.
Johnson’s rural roots become abundantly clear when as an active member of Wesley’s United Methodist Men, he frequently treats attendants at their meetings to menus of raccoon, rabbit, deer meat and this June, stewed chicken necks, gizzards and livers over white rice. He also uses his rural know-how in his maintenance of the church grounds and summer vegetable garden.
A good and faithful servant Johnson is one of the church’s two van drivers. He typically uses his personal vehicles to pick up other Sunday churchgoers on his way to get the van from the church as well as to pick up students during Summer Vacation Bible School. A regular visitor to members who are sick and shut-in, Johnson uses his skills at carpentry and other handyman knowledge to help with members’ home repairs.
Long on patience and home-spun advice, Johnson never accepts payments for the things he does, so June 23 during a special recognition ceremony the church’s Hospitality Committee gave him a gas card with specific instructions that it only be used for his personal vehicle. The Mayor of Charleston declared June 23 Wilfred Johnson Day, the Trustee Board presented him with a plaque declaring him ‘Man of the Year’ and the United Methodist Men gave him a plague embossed with his favorite quote, “Work Don’t Stop”.