PORT BYRON — Mary Ann Johnson, 95, of Port Byron, and Naples, Fla., passed away on May 6, 2019.
Mary Ann was graduate of Port Byron High School where she played saxophone in the marching band, was head cheerleader, and member of the newspaper staff. In 1945, after attending Auburn Business College, she moved with her parents to Fort Niagara to support the war effort. It was there that she met a handsome Army captain named Edward Junius “JJ” Johnson. Mary Ann and JJ were married on June 4, 1945 in Auburn. Two years later with her 1-year-old daughter in tow, she boarded a ship and traveled to occupied Japan where she lived for several months after the war. Over the next few years, military life would take them to Utah, Maryland, North Carolina, and the Presido in San Francisco.
They retired to Port Byron in 1955 where they started a farm and settled with their children. JJ and Mary Ann planted pine trees, fruit trees, roses, pumpkins, strawberries, and all the vegetables they could grow. Mary Ann became a local celebrity after authoring two books: The Ghosts of Port Byron and Ghosts along the Erie. She often wrote special contributing articles for the Syracuse Post-Standard and was a frequent speaker at local schools and book stores. She was a member of the St. John Catholic Church and was president of the John Cool American Legion Women’s Auxiliary. While wintering in Naples, Fla., her love of Japan found her involved with Ikebana International. She enjoyed painting, knitting, entertaining the holidays, family gatherings, camping on Cayuga Lake, and her Port Byron farm.
Mary Ann was an avid traveler. She particularly enjoyed trips to Italy to visit her mother’s family in Montemagno. For her 40th wedding anniversary she traveled with her husband and children to Hawaii to visit the military base where JJ was stationed with the 25th Infantry prior to World War II.
Mary Ann was kind, generous, and loved life. She loved her children, her grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Her house was so warm and welcoming that anyone who visited her felt like family.
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She is survived by her three children, Jacqueline Johnson Hoover, Edward A. Johnson, and Mary Ann “Poogie” Cooper; her grandchildren, Edward Christopher Johnson, Abigale (Brian) Eggen, Joseph (Scott Patten) Leary, Michael (Leah) Johnson, Matthew (Blair) Leary, Megan (Chris) Vitale, Kenzie (Matteo Caspon) Cooper, Jacqueline Johnson, and Melvin Richardson Jr.; along with 15 great-grandchildren.
She was predeceased in death by her husband, Lt. Col. Edward “JJ” Johnson; her son, Sammy Johnson; her parents, Anthony “Zuke” and Mary Giovanni Van Ditto; her brother, William “Billy” Van Ditto, and her grandson, Mark Holmes.
A Mass of Christian burial will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, May 25, 2019, in St. John RC Church, Port Byron.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Port Byron Fire Department, P.O. Box 367, Port Byron, NY 13140 or the Port Byron Historical Society.
Audioun Funeral Home LLC, 218 Main St., Port Byron, has charge of arrangements.