Lucille Burnham Johnson

Honored by:Elizabeth A. Wright
Brick location:E:17  map

I am honoring her because she was a wonderful mother and she was delighted when I graduated from ISU in 1975.


Lucille Burnham Johnson was my stepmother. My mother had died in 1933, after giving birth to my younger sister, Alice, leaving my father a widower with three young daughters, Cynthia, age 5, the infant, Alice, and me, 19 months old. She married my father Charles Edgar Johnson when I was four years old. I was delighted to have a mother.

I cannot remember how old I was when I started calling her "Mothe" instead of Mother or Mom. The name seemed to fit her and we all began calling her Mothe. Once her son, David, said to her, when she scolded Alice, "Don’t be a wicked stepmother." She never was. She treated Cynthia and Alice and I the same way she treated her own children, Grace and David. My childhood was carefree even though much of the time my father was ill and away from home in a mental hospital. Mothe told us he had a nervous breakdown. In those days, mental illness was not discussed I did not understand what nervous breakdown meant when I was young. I did know that I was afraid of my father when he was ill and I avoided him. She was always available. When I was 14, we moved to Portland, Maine to live with Mothe's sister, Grace Christensen, and her husband Harry. Mothe was expecting another child and Dad was still hospitalized. Those were rough years but we all survived. I did not have as many clothes or as much spending money as other girls at Deering High School, but I received a good education there. Perhaps Mothe should have explained that there was no money for me to go to college. Instead, she encouraged me to take college preparatory classes in high school, which I did.

She supported me until I was 18 and then I was on my own financially. After I graduated from Deering High School in 1950, I worked as a file clerk until I learned how to take shorthand. Then I did secretarial work before and after I married my husband in Portland, Maine and continued to do secretarial work at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan where my husband earned his degrees in microbiology. In 1962 we moved to Ames, Iowa with our two and a half year old daughter, Ann Elizabeth, and our 6 months old son, John Charles.

Even though I have lived in the midwest since I was 22 years old, Mothe was always part of my life. We exchanged letters and telephone calls often and I sent her pictures of my children and we visited Massachusetts every other year until my father died in 1967. Then Mothe began to come visit us. She loved Iowa. "You can see the sky here, Betty" she often told me. She enjoyed my friends and neighbors and she was delighted when I started taking courses at Iowa State University in 1969. And when I finally graduated from the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences with a B.A. degree in Journalism and Mass Communications in November 1975, she flew out to attend my graduation ceremony and the Open House I had afterwards. Her last visit to Iowa was in May, 1981. Our daughter, Ann, married Michael D. Rouse on May 23 and Mothe participated in the wedding service.

On her 70th birthday my sisters and our husbands and my brother and some of her grandchildren gathered at Amherst, Massachusetts at Grace's home for a celebration. She was so pleased to have all of us together again for a weekend. And again on her 75th birthday, August 25, 1982, I flew out alone to help her celebrate with a slightly smaller group of relatives at Grace's home again. She usually had Thanksgiving dinner with Grace and David but that November, she said she did not feel well. We all suspected the worst. She died m her sleep at Addison Gilbert Hospital in Gloucester, Massachusetts on December 4, 1982.

I am honoring her with a brick at the Carrie Chapman Catt Plaza for Heroines, because she was a wonderful mother and because she was so delighted that I had received a degree from Iowa State University.

My oldest granddaughter, Melinda Ann Rouse, was born July 21, 1983. Before she died, Mothe knew that I was going to be a grandmother, and she was happy for me. Now, 20 years after I graduated from Iowa State University, Melinda, a 7th grader, has told us she too wants to go to Iowa State University as her grandmother and mother and father and uncle and aunt did. I'm sure Mothe would be pleased.


Gloucester Daily Times, Monday, December 6, 1982

Lucille B. (Burnham) Johnson, 75, wife of the late Charles Edgar Johnson of 24 Riverside Ave., died Saturday morning at Addison Gilbert Hospital. She was born in Gloucester on August 25, 1907, daughter of the late Dr. Allan Stanley Burnham and Florence (Dustin) Burnham. She was a graduate of Gloucester High School Class of 1925 and the Bouve Boston School of Physical Education Class of 1928. Mrs. Johnson worked as a physical education teacher first at Northfield School for Girls, then at Newton High School and later at Beaver Country Day School. Mrs. Johnson was one of the best known field hockey and lacrosse players in this section of the country, having been on the 1933 All-American Field Hockey Team, and for four years, 1932-1936, a member of the All American Lacrosse Team.  In 1935, she was a member of the United States Women’s Lacrosse Touring Team which played matches in England and Scotland. 

She was a past president of the Boston Field Hockey Association and a former secretary of the United States Women’s Lacrosse Association.

From 1961 to 1970, she worked as a Recreation Therapist for the Commonwelth of Massachusetts, Department o fYouth Services, in Jamaica Plain.  From 1970 to 1971, she worked as a recreation therapist at Melrose-Wakefield Hospital in the Psychiatric Unit. From 1971 to 1974, she worked as a house Mother at Endicott College in Beverly.  In the summers of 1974 and 1975, she worked at the White-Ellery House for the Cape Ann Historical Society.

She is survived by a son, David Charles Johnson of Cambridge; four daughters, Cynthia J. Ward of Princeton, N.J., Elizabeth A. Wright, of Ames, Iowa, Alice Park of Mount Airy, MD, and Grace J. Craig of Amherst; eight grandchildren; a great-granddaughter, a sister, Grace Burnham Christensen of South Freeport, Maine, and several nieces and nephews.

Her funeral services will be held Tuesday at 1:30 P.M. in the Trinity Congregational Church, 76 Middle Street, Gloucester, Massachusetts.

The Rev. Charles Paul Barnes, a pastor, will officiate.

Burial will be in Wyoming Cemetery in Melrose, Massachusetts.

Visiting hours are this evening from 7-9 at the James C. Greely Funeral home, 212 Washington, Street, Gloucester, Massachusetts.

Kindly omit flowers.

Memorial gifts may be made to Trinity Congregational Church, 76 Middle Street, Gloucester or to Addison Gilbert Hospital, 198Washington Street, Gloucester, Massachusetts.


We Remember Lucille Burnham Johnson on December 4, 1982


We come together to cherish the life of Lucille Burnham Johnson.

So many are the pieces of a person’s life, a person who has lived so richly and compassionately as Lucille Burnham Johnson.  Her ready smile, her cheerfulness, her strong sense of integrity, of fair play, have touched so many people, friends, and family, loved ones all.  Hers has not been an easy life in the sense of burdens to bear, but her courage and determination to carry on whatever the difficulties, will long be remembered by those of us who have shared her life.

She wanted this day to be simple and so it shall be.  Those of us planning this service wanted to reflect the tradition of Trinity Congregational Church, so much a part of her life in recent years, as well as to honor her memory with words we fell would be particularly meaningful to her.  Signed by David Johnson, Grace J. Craig and Cynthia J. Ward.

Grace and David gave the eulogy at the service, Cynthia read the 23rd Psalm and I read the New Testament scriptures which the Pastor had picked out.  Cynthia’s sons and daughter also took part in the service.



My mother died December 4 and I was devastated.


I cannot explain how empty I felt.  The person whom I had confided in for years was gone.  Whom could I turn to?

I soon found out that my three sisters and brother felt as I did.  And we turned to each other in our grief and we found happiness sharing our memories of her and we comforted each other.

We planned her memorial service together and each of us did what he or she could.

I read the New Testament scriptures from John, Chapter 14 and 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 4.  And believing what I read has also helped me cope.  I hope it may help others in our congregation who have recently lost loved ones. 

“We want you to be quite certain, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, to make sure that you do not grieve about them, like the other people who have no hope.  We believe that Jesus died and rose again and that it will be the same for those who have died in Jesus: God will bring them with him” (1 Thessalonians, Chapter 4, Jerusalem Bible).

-     Betty Wright

Submitted on 10/27/1991

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