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Mrs. Karen Johnson

October 01, 2018
Karen Toms Johnson, age 66, of Pine Mountain, Ga., died peacefully at home on Sept. 13, 2018, of bvFTD (Fronto-Temporal Dementia, behavioral variant). Born in Miami, Fla., Karen was the daughter of Ronald M. Toms and Verna Cogan Toms.

Karen Johnson was a graduate of Tucker High School 1970, and The University of Georgia (Phi Beta Kappa) 1974, receiving a B.F.A. with a concentration in jewelry and ceramics. She later earned a M.S. in International Relations in Political Science and a Six Year Degree in Education, both from Troy State University. Karen Johnson attended and loved the UGA Cortona Studies Abroad Program, the summers of 1973 and 1974.

After college graduation, Karen soon became a full-time potter at the Happy Valley co-op started by Jerry and Kathy Chapelle, then, with partner and friend Barbara Allen, operated Second Apple Studio in downtown Athens, Georgia. As a student, Karen took ballet at UGA, kept working and practicing until she was able to dance on point, unusual for someone who started in their late teens or early twenties, and she taught and danced with Athens School of Ballet. Karen became potter by day and ballet instructor by night.

In 1987, Karen married the Rev. Tom H. Johnson, Jr., who had been a ceramics student at UGA. She moved to Thomasville, Georgia and along with Tom, opened Clay Street Studio and taught ballet with Jan Carlton Van Heiningen in the same building which Jan owned. Karen developed a thriving pottery business through wholesale trade shows, open to art galleries and fine craft galleries, settling on shows in Boston and Philadelphia and traveling and supported by good friend, Mary Trotochaud. For several years, Clay Street Studio income eclipsed Tom's salary from UM mission agencies. Karen joined First UMC of Thomasville, became an active Christian, then a counselor to that youth group and began to lead youth work teams to the Hinton Rural Life Center in North Carolina. Karen later worked as youth director at St. John UMC with the Rev. Creede Hinshaw and the Rev. Sandra Henry in Columbus, Georgia, while still a potter and ballet instructor.

In 1995, the light of Karen's life was born, Thomas III, in Columbus. Karen re-ordered her life around Thomas, worked at the St. Luke UMC, then worked at W.C. Bradley in the Stakeholders Department with Susan Wiggins as supervisor. Karen later said working at W.C. Bradley was her single most exciting job. In Americus, Georgia, Karen became a public school teacher in the Sumter County Schools, which she loved, and which also put her on the same schedule as Thomas III. With Dr. Gera Nelson, Karen became an Odyssey of the Mind coach in Sumter County, encouraging T3 and other ‘Omers’ to always be creative problem solvers. In 2008 their team tied for fourth place internationally at the OM World competition, held that year at the University of Maryland.

Moving to Pine Mountain when husband Tom became disabled, Karen became an elementary school art teacher in the Muscogee County School District, primarily at River Road and South Columbus elementary schools, until she became disabled with FTD. Karen loved teaching art so much that she had hoped to continue until she was in her seventies.

From the time she was 18 to the present, Karen's favorite service agency was Planned Parenthood. Karen strongly supported these United Methodist related agencies: The Vashti Center, Open Door Community House, Hinton Rural Life Center, Epworth By The Sea, and Magnolia Manor.

In lieu of flowers, please send donations to one or more of these service organizations.

Karen Toms Johnson is survived by: husband Tom and son Thomas III of Pine Mountain; two sisters and their husbands, Mark and Cathy Vinci of Phoenix, Arizona, and, Ken and Janice Riordan of Woodstock; in-laws, Thomas, Sr. and Emmie Johnson of Oxford/Covington, sisters-in-law and their husbands, Jeff and Nancy Lawalin of Gainesville, John and Betsy Strauss of Roswell; nieces and nephews and their spouses: Liz, Chris, Michelle, Vincent, Melissa, Russell, Jesse, Adriana, Emmy, Evan and numerous great nieces and nephews.

Karen's warm, loving personality will be missed by all who knew her.

A memorial service was held Saturday, September 22, 2018, at First United Methodist Church, Pine Mountain, followed by a luncheon and storytelling about Karen.

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