|Meta Persis Means was born October 17, 1901, in Ida, Louisiana, to James Taylor Means II and Delle Bonner Means. She credited her father with the resolve—unusual in that day—that even young women should receive a college education. So at the age of thirteen Persis made the trip south to Baton Rouge, to live with an aunt, Stella Bonner, while she attended Baton Rouge High School and Louisiana State University.
Henry LeRoy Johns and Persis married on June 14, 1921, shortly after Persis’ graduation from LSU (where she had won the gold medal in piano) and began the years of united, dedicated service to the United Methodist Church. Rev. Johns’ appointments included Cedar Grove, Natchitoches, Ruston, Lake Charles, Carrolton and Rayne Memorial in New Orleans. He was presiding elder of the Monroe District and later District Superintendent of Missions, then situated in Philadelphia in 1953. In 1965, the couple retired to Monroe, where he was Pastor Emeritus at First Church.
They had three children: Persis, Roy and Hope, and a son, David, who died in infancy. Rev. Johns died in 1985. At the time of her death Persis was survived by two brothers, three sisters, her children, ten grandchildren and seventeen great-grandchildren.
Persis Johns loved scholarship and the arts, especially music. She played classical piano well into her eighties. She applied high standards to all her pursuits, was exacting about formality that balanced her husband’s more flamboyant manner. Her hospitality, expressed in delicious meals and a calmly inviting living room, reflected not only dignity but also the genuine warmth and interest she felt toward people. In some sense, she was the very embodiment of the old fashioned preacher’s wife. Her career—indeed, her vocation—was supporting and extending her husband’s ministry and being primarily responsible for their active household. She did this capably, graciously, wisely, frugally, and with a dash of humor. As Bishop Ben Oliphint pointed out at her funeral, she was always able to move on short notice. Even in death, Persis Johns knew how to move. She died in bed, on a stormy spring evening, April 7, 1993, between the praying of the Lord’s Prayer and the reading of a Psalm.
A friend who wrote the family after her death noted, “You knew where her feet were planted. We need more like her today, to take a firm stand.”
|Source: Journal Louisiana Conference, 1993; p. 233 By Hope Norman Coulter|