Johnson Park is among the many lasting impressions of the legacy that Verna Louise and C. Richard “Dick” Johnson of Boonville has left behind.
The Johnsons are known for many things, from channeling their vast wealth into numerous philanthropic endeavors to their long-standing career in journalism with Warrick Publishing.
It all began in 1885 when at the ripe age of 15, Charles Hunter Johnson, Dick’s father, started his career at the Boonville Enquirer. He would later purchase the Boonville Standard in 1905.
Dick, who was born April 3, 1912, was a member of the ROTC at the University of Indiana and after graduating in 1930, he joined his father at the Boonville Standard. Then in 1935, Dick became the editor, the same year his father celebrated his 50th year in the printing business.
Dick would later go on to purchase the Newburgh Register, Chandler Light, which would later be renamed to the Chandler Post, and the Boonville Enquirer. These, along with the Boonville Standard, would later encompass the Warrick Newspapers.
Although Brehm Communications, Inc. bought the newspapers in 1983, Dick stayed on as publisher. He celebrated his family being a part of 100 years of community journalism in 1985 before sadly passing away on Aug. 21, 1997 at the age of 85.
But the light of his life wasn’t Warrick Publishing, it was his beautiful, funny and giving wife of 57 years, Louise. She was born April 17, 1919 in Boonville and cared just as deeply about Warrick Publishing as her husband did.
“She really had an interest in the paper,” current publisher, Gary Neal said. “For a while there, she would come in at least once a week to check in and say hi.”
Neal said she continued to live an active life after her husband passed and would travel a great deal with the National Newspaper Association.
“Anytime I went to visit her, she would pull out 20 photo albums from Germany and China,” he said.
Louise was also an accomplished musician, as a former violinist with the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra. She also made her mark as the first woman to serve on the board of trustees at the Elder of the Hemingway Memorial Presbyterian Church, as a founding member of the Warrick County Museum, an Honorary Secretary of State under former Indiana Secretary of State Ed Simcox and a founding member of the C. Richard Johnson and Verna Louise Johnson Foundation. She also served as a judge for several newspaper contests in Kentucky and was the Warrick County Communication Foundation’s “2013 Most Valuable Philanthropist.”
Susan Sublett, Director of the Warrick County Community Foundation, said that over the years, Louise provided scholarships to 32 Warrick County students to help them pursue higher education.
“Her can-do attitude and forward thinking gained Louise the admiration and respect from those who knew her well,” she said.
But Sublett agrees that Louise’s true passion in life was her husband. She said that before she passed last year, they would often sit and talk in her library about the fun and interesting activities she and Dick did in her past.
“It was clear by the smile on her face while relaying these stories that Dick was her one and only true love,” she said.
Sublett said one of her fondest memories of Louise was when she told her of a time when she went antique shopping in Hanson, Ky. with friends, and noticed a framed picture of her husband hanging up. When she asked the shop owner about it, she said it was a World War II soldier wearing his uniform.
“Louise quickly set her straight and said, ‘No it’s not! That’s my husband and he is wearing his ROTC uniform from his college days at Indiana University!’”
Sublett said she asked Louise if the shop owner offered to give it to her.
“She said, ‘no, she wanted $30 for it, so I told her to hang it back up because that was too much!”’ Sublett said. “That is when we laughed for quite some time together. We both knew she could afford to purchase it.”
Sublett said that a few days after Louise visited the shop and had thought about it some more, she called the shop owner and asked her to ship it to her.
“She bought it and had it on her end table ever since,” Sublett said.
Louise passed away on April 26, 2015 and Sublett said she still visits her grave.
“We need more people on this earth with her integrity and character,” she said.
The Johnson’s love story was one for the ages. Although they never had any children, they were always dedicated to one another. Louise would proudly watch her husband play trumpet on Sunday afternoons and they would keep their romance alive by traveling. They even had the chance to visit the White House on several occasions.
Although Louise and Dick are no longer with us, they are still making their mark on Boonville and will forever be beloved members of the community they so adored.