|Writing memoirs of the life of a beloved aunt and mother-in-law is a sacred assignment. Stella Bonner Johns was born in Angelina County, Texas, October 24, 1883. She died in Warsaw, Virginia, July 24, 1985, at the age of 101. She lived a long, purposeful life, busy at many tasks and touching many lives of all ages.
She graduated from Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, taught school in rural Texas in the early 1900’s and became principal in Ida, Louisiana. In 1909, she married Rev. Henry S. Johns, a member of the Louisiana Annual Conference and Chaplain of the Louisiana State Penitentiary. Their 20 years in Baton Rouge were busy ones. She was a devoted mother to her husband’s young son, Henry LeRoy Johns, and helped give guidance in his life’s formative years. He became a Methodist minister of the Louisiana Conference. As a teacher of a large Sunday School class of women in First Methodist Church, Baton Rouge, and as president of the women’s work during a difficult reorganization period, her intellectual ability and her keen sense of justice and fairness created and generated love. Other activities included coaching foreign students from L.S.U. in English and befriending many other students.
After her husband returned to the pastorate, the remainder of his ministry was spent in Greenwood. The four years there were happy, rewarding ones. Following his death, she was Superintendent of the Protestant Orphanage for Girls in Baton Rouge, 1934-1942. She found morale at a low ebe. She lightened tasks with the installation of a washing machine and the purchase of electric irons. She had story hours and prayer time, teaching self-appreciation and instilling awareness of each child’s importance to the Heavenly Father. Spirits were lifted! She became “Aunt Stella” to all. A picture in the Baton Rouge State Times newspaper shows one little one patting her gently during story hour as any child will do in a moment of affection for a parent.
She gave up the orphanage position to go to help care for her aged mother in Lufkin, Texas. During these years she kept in touch with a large family connection, inspiring them with her warmth of spirit in regular correspondence.
The last years of her life were spent in the home of her daughter and son-in-law, Mary Bonner and Reo Duggan, graduate chemists associated for many years with the Food and Drug Administration. The activity in this hospitable home in the Washington, D.C. area kept alive her keen interest in the world.
On Friday, July 26, 1985, as members of several generations of her family listened to the inspiring memorial service conducted by Rev. Gilbert Wade in the chapel of First United Methodist Church, Baton Rouge, it seemed it seemed that we had assembled to wish “Aunt Stella” a happy journey to a place she had planned to go for some time.
|Source: Journal Louisiana Conference, 1986; p.282-283 By Mrs. H. L. Johns|