Forrest Neil Johnson

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Forrest Neil Johnson

February 28, 1927 - October 25, 2018

Forrest Neil Johnson The Reverend Forrest Johnson died peacefully on Oct. 25, 2018, in Pleasant Hill. Rev. Johnson was born in Chicago, IL, to Elizabeth and Edward Johnson. He was predeceased by his only sibling, Bruce Johnson, and is survived by his wife of 66 years, Cynthia Betts; his four children, Kimberly Arrington (Robert), Maj-Britt Johnson (Michael Shulman), Alexis Johnson (Amy Jelliffe) and Laird (Ruth); grandchildren, Ashley Hedges Flood, Sam Johnson, Emily Johnson, Natalie Johnson and Eleanor Johnson; great-granddaughter, Piper Flood; and seven nephews and nieces.
At age 17 Forrest went to Wabash College on the Navy's WWII V-12 program, and later attended McCormick Seminary in Chicago, where he earned his Master of Divinity degree. He ministered in congregations and served in other capacities in Chicago; Edinburgh, Scotland; Wayne, IL; Tokyo, Japan; Bronx, NY; Manhattan (the Office of Economic Opportunity); Greenwich, CT; NYU (continuing education office); Peterborough, NH; El Paso, Texas (UCC House Church Movement); Portales, New Mexico; and Hamden, CT. His final 14 years were spent at Uplands Village Retirement Community, Pleasant Hill. The family is very grateful for the consistently compassionate care he received at Uplands.
A man of prodigious energies, talents and interests, Forrest acted in national television commercials and for fun worked at the Pasadena Playhouse, studied with Lee Strasberg in New York, and was a summer actor at the Tamworth, NH, "Barnstormers" theater where he had roles in "Life With Father" and "Lion in Winter." Passionate about social justice he spent his New York and Connecticut years involved in both the anti-war and Civil Rights movements. In 1962 he participated in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Albany, GA, campaign, where he was arrested with Dr. King while praying on the courthouse steps. In the Bronx he helped found a Riverdale Civil Rights initiative which focused on integrating the housing market and exposing racist real estate practices. Later in his life, with his wife Cynthia, he was an active member of PFLAG (parents and friends of Lesbians and Gays), Santa Fe, NM, and a vocal defender of LGBTQ rights.
In his retirement, and right up until the end, Forrest enjoyed traveling widely with Cynthia, guest preaching, participating in Episcopal liturgy and communion, reading extensively, watching and arguing with TV news pundits, swimming, walking, being entertained by his equally lively grandchildren, and writing books. He is the author of several self-published volumes of stories, and a play about Thomas Merton whose life and work he greatly admired.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. (Eastern time) at Christ Church Episcopal, Rugby, TN, on Dec. 8.
Hood Funeral Home and Crematory, LLC ( was in charge of the arrangements.
Published on October 29, 2018
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5 posts

Phyllis Stein
Dec 02, 2018
As a friend and former congregant of his daughter, Maj-Britt, it is comforting to know that his gifts and passion for justice continue in his children. Maj-Britt, my deepest sympathies to you and your family.
Susan Johnson
Nov 19, 2018
So sad and sorry to hear the news. Being a part of the El Paso UCC House Church played a big role in my early spiritual formation. Love to you all.
Peggy Holthaus
Nov 01, 2018
What a LARGE legacy he leaves! My heart is with you and your family, Kim.
Rosa Douglas
Oct 30, 2018
For Kim , Ashley and family, as I read this about your dad, I was amazed at the love he had for everyone, no matter what!! What a legacy!! Prayers and love for you in this time. Hugs!! 😘❤️
Oct 30, 2018
My deep sympathy, Kim, to you and your Mom and family at this news of your Father's death. Please know you have my love and prayer with you always.