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John Johannaber
Caldwell & Cowan
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John Willis Johannaber was born March 17, 1923 in Rockford Iowa. His parents were Etha May Clem and William Frederick Johannaber. He died at home on June 9, 2009. He was a gifted musician, scholar, spiritual leader, world traveler, and family man. As the son of a banker, he grew up in Rockford, Illinois and Casper, Wyoming. He attended Harvard University where he received the calling to be a minister and transferred to the University of Nebraska at Omaha to complete his studies. He then returned to Massachusetts where he was in the same program with Martin Luther King, Jr. There he received his PhD, graduating Magna Cum Laude from Boston University School of Theology. In 1947, he married Rossie Elizabeth (Betty) McCaw, who was a Disciples of Christ missionary from Des Moines, Iowa. She was teaching in South America when she met John on a mission trip to Mexico. They started their life together in West Port Point, Massachusetts while he served as pastor in the local Methodist church and commuted to school. They had five children in the following ten years. After teaching at in National College in Kansas City Missouri, John became the Academic Dean of Scarritt College in Nashville, Tennessee. It was a turbulent time during the early sixties in which he was thrust into the campaign for civil rights and racial equality. Students who were influenced by his teaching included, United Methodist Bishop Abel Muzorewa who later became the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia, Leader of the African National Council and UANC. While at Scarritt, he led a delegation of Methodists to the Holy Land and met with the Pope Paul VI in Rome. It was also during this time his middle son with Down’s syndrome was killed by a motorist while crossing the street from his school bus. When the driver’s insurance company insinuated that young David was a “defective” child whose life had little worth and the death had actually done the family a favor, it so outraged other parents that John and Betty were persuaded to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit. It was John’s testimony that was attributed to winning the case. When asked what his son’s “defective life” was worth, John stated that he valued his life more because of his disability. David was the child that would never leave him. He was the child that John always believed would be his comfort in his old age. At the time, it considered a landmark case not just for special needs children, but for all children in the state of Tennessee. At the end of the sixties John moved his family to New York, where he served the United Methodist church as the Executive Secretary for Missionary Personnel at the Board of Global Ministries. From New York City, he moved to Cedartown, Georgia to be the Director of the Ethel Harpst Children’s Home. It was while in Cedartown, that he was asked to represent the protestant church at the American Embassy in Moscow, Russia. With his children grown, he and Betty went to Russia for three years. John’s congregation met every Sunday at the ambassador’s residence where it was not unusual for him to have as many as 30 ambassadors in attendance. Their apartment was a popular haven for traveling students and it was there that they “adopted" Christine Hena, a young medical student from Liberia. John and Betty learned firsthand of the Christian students’ persecution in the USSR. One day a student came to John with a shocking story that he was slated to be executed for being a Christian and not a Communist. The American embassy confirmed his story and John and Betty packed two weeks of food and covertly put him on a train to Germany the middle of the night. They were credited with saving the young student’s life. While in Russia, John and Betty also befriended Yelena Bonner, the wife of Andrei Sakharov, the Soviet physicist who became, in the words of the Nobel Peace Committee, “a spokesman for the conscience of mankind.” While Sakharov was in exile for his political beliefs, his wife gave his memoirs to John for publication in the United States. To get the manuscript out of the USSR, It was smuggled in the lining of John’s coat and then delivered to Yelena’s son in Boston. After retiring, John and Betty settled in Oxford, GA where they spent their time involved with grandchildren, church, gardening and John’s lifelong passions for religion, politics and playing the flute. John was preceded in death by his son David McCaw Johannaber, his sister Etha Marie Howard of Dallas TX, and his son-in-law John Francis Hammer. He is survived by his wife of 61years: Betty Johannaber, daughters: Nancy Elizabeth Hammer and Anna Kristine (Charles Madison) Silver, and sons Earl Arthur Johannaber and William Frederick Johannaber II and “adopted” daughter Dr. Christine Hena medical missionary in Kazakhstan. Grandchildren: Kristin (Mark) Mitchem, Stephanie (Henry) Light, Catherine (Philip) Manavi, Asha, Liana, Aleta Johannaber, and Sarah, David, John Johannaber, and Camolyn Hena Great grandchildren: Amber Light, Charlton Light, John Tyler Mitchem, Caroline Mitchem, Paul Johannaber He is also survived by his sister Elizabeth C. Johannaber of Asheville, NC, his brother -in-law Lorn Lambier Howard of Dallas, TX, and nieces and nephews. Funeral Services for Mr. Johannaber will be held Monday, June 15, 2009, 10 AM, at Allen Memorial United Methodist Church, in Oxford, with Rev. Brian Dale officiating, and interment following in Oxford Historical Cemetery. The family will receive friends at Caldwell & Cowan Funeral Home, 1215 Access Rd., Covington, Sunday, June 14, from 3-6 PM. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to: Dr. Chris Hena’s Medical Ministry in Kazakhstah, c/o: UMCOR Advance #982168 Hospital Revitalization, 475 Riverside Drive, Rm. #330, New York, NY 10115. Allen Memorial United Methodist Church, PO 117, Oxford, GA 30054 Newton County Band, c/o T.K. Adams Covington, GA The Navigators, c/o Jill McGiboney, 6241 Farmington Lane SE, Covington, GA 30014