Willie Lois Johnson, 89, kept whole family well-fed

Posted: January 29, 2013

ONE OF THE mysteries at the home of Willie Lois Johnson was where all the food came from.

Mealtime would be crowded with many of her five children, eight grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren in attendance, but it never looked as though Willie was cooking very much.

"I would see a little bit being cooked, and a lot of people being served," said her granddaughter Susan Hill Edwards.

The food was outstanding, prepared in the Southern style because Willie was a daughter of the South, and everybody followed her strict rules of behavior. Or else.

"You weren't allowed to hum - like 'mmm this is good' - smack your lips, chew with your mouth open," Susan said. "You had to sit up straight and participate in the conversation."

You didn't want to get Willie Lois mad at you. She was the soul of kindness, but don't cross her, was the family legend.

Willie Lois Johnson, who brought her cooking skills from her native South Carolina and refused to see anyone go hungry - even if they weren't - died Jan. 20. She was 89 and lived in West Philadelphia.

"She loved feeding people," said her daughter Delores Moss. "Even if you weren't hungry, she made you eat. She didn't like anybody to be hungry."

Willie was born in Clinton, S.C., to Carrie and William Whitmore. She got her early education there, and came with her family to Philadelphia in 1943.

"She was really nice to everybody; she loved people," her daughter said. "But she was like a lioness when it came to taking care of her family."

Willie was married to William Bernard Johnson. He died in 1979.

Willie began an oral tradition of family stories, her granddaughter said. "She told stories about family and friends, how certain people were, what they accomplished, their clothes, how they combed their hair," Susan said.

Her mother and her aunts picked up the tradition and tell their own stories, she said.

Willie had a habit of always wearing perfume, even spraying herself before going to bed. Her favorite was White Shoulders by Evyan - "Bring a whimsical touch to your evening with White Shoulders by Evyan."

Besides her daughter, she is survived by son William Johnson Jr., twins Robert Johnson and Patricia Johnson-Barr, and another daughter, Alma Jean Hill; seven other grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

Services: 11 a.m today at Mount Pisgah African Methodist Episcopal Church, 428 N. 41st St. Friends may call at 9 a.m. Burial will be at Glenwood Memorial Gardens, West Chester.

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