Obituary: Elizabeth Peale Johnson
Elizabeth Peale Johnson passed away on March 21 at John Knox Village in Lee’s Summit, Mo. Elizabeth, known as Betty by her friends and family, served as an inspiration to all who knew her. She was 99.
Betty graduated from East Orange High School in 1938. She served as a secretary for the War Production Board in Washington, D.C., during World War II. After the war, she returned to New Jersey and married Raleigh “Zeke” Johnson. Zeke cheered for Betty’s dreams for more than 46 years of marriage, until he passed in 1996. Betty and Zeke lived in Wantage for more than 30 years.
Betty received her A.B. from Rutgers University and her M.A. from New York University. She was the director of admissions at Orange County Community College in Middletown, N.Y., until she retired in 1984.
Betty believed strongly in giving to her community. She held leadership positions in organizations such as the League of Women Voters, National Council of Negro Women (Montclair chapter), and the Young Women’s Christian Association. She sat on several boards, including the state Review Board for Historic Sites, the state Historical Records Advisory Board, and the Montclair branch of the Y.W.C.A. She was also proud of attending the March on Washington with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Inspired by Alex Haley’s “Roots,” Betty traveled with her husband to research her family history. Her passion for genealogy led her to co-founding the N.J. chapter of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society.
Betty moved to Iowa in 2001, where she participated in organizations such as the Iowa State University Women’s Club and the League of Women Voters. She moved to John Knox Village (JKV) in 2006 and remained there until her passing. She continued serving her community, including as an ambassador of the JKV Foundation and a mentor to first-year medical students.
Betty had a passion for travel. She traveled extensively throughout the United States along the East Coast, through the South and Midwest and from Alaska to Hawaii. She explored many countries and their cultures, including England, Kenya, South Africa, Ghana, New Zealand, and Australia, and visited the Panama Canal. Betty pursued her love of travel well into her 80s.
Betty is survived by a loving family and friends, including her niece, Jacqueline Murphy of West Orange, nephew Howard P. Smith Jr. in Hilo, Hawaii, and cousin Loretta Porter in Orange.
A memorial service to celebrate Mrs. Johnson’s inspiring life will be held when the threat of the novel coronavirus passes. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be sent to the New Jersey chapter of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, AAHGS NJ, PO Box 5343, Somerset, NJ 08875.