Jane Louise (Somers) Johnson, of Oak Ridge, TN, passed away peacefully on May 11, 2016, after a full and long life. Born in Chicago, IL, she grew up in Evanston and attended the American Conservatory of Music studying under Ethel Lyon and Louise Robyn. She began teaching piano at the age of 15, and had a lifelong passion for music arts. With her father and brother, she frequented jazz clubs in Chicago during the heyday of jazz; she met her future husband of 69 years, David Justus Johnson, on a blind date arranged by a member of her brother's jazz band.
Jane came to Oak Ridge in 1945, following her fiancé who had been working on the Manhattan Project for several years. Her introduction to Oak Ridge in the wartime years was pulling up to Oak Ridge on a steam train, properly dressed for travel, and stepping down into a cow pasture. Over the years, Jane and Dave were involved in the Oak Ridge Kennel Club, and she continued her avid interest in teaching and performing piano through a number of Oak Ridge Music Association coffee concerts and sang with the Oak Ridge Chorus. She assisted Ruth Laird in running and establishing the Oak Ridge School of Music.
In later decades, she became a member of the Southeastern Keyboard Society and attended the International Clavichord Symposia in Magnano, Italy, several times and contributed to the proceedings chaired by Bernard Brauchli and Christopher Hogwood; her special interest was the music of the Renaissance and Baroque eras, but she enjoyed all types of music from Ragtime to Blues to classic Jazz, and lectured widely; it could be said that "she never met a rhumba beat she didn't like." She contributed articles to the Grove Musical Dictionary of Music and Musicians, and toured Europe playing historic organs in Germany, Belgium and France.
After her husband's retirement, the couple moved to Daddy's Creek near Hebbertsburg in Cumberland County, where they became involved in building the Community Center with friends and neighbors. Jane spent many weekends playing keyboards and dancing with a bluegrass band that featured fiddler Gene Horner. She was instrumental in editing a multi-volume oral history "Tales of Hebbertsburg," dating back to the Civil War. Irene Webb and June and Willard Hamby were considered dear friends.
Jane was also a life long caricaturist, watercolorist and print maker with a longtime association with the Oak Ridge Community Art Center; her weekly print making class was very special in her life. Her caricatures of composers and famous musicians were published often in the organist journal "The Diapason."
Jane was preceded in death by parents Roger Ward Somers and Ann Louise (Myers) Somers, and brother Roger Ward Somers. She is survived by her children, David Somers Johnson (Galina), Ann Scappaticci, Roger Ward Johnson (Deborah) and Katherine Jane Martin (Melvin); grandchildren, Cheryl and Stephan Scappaticci (Susan), Ben Johnson (Kathleen Lordo), Shawna Martin, Chelsea Martin and David Martin; and great-grandchildren, Jameson and Isabella Scappaticci, and Aurora Jane Johnson.
The family would like to thank the thoughtful and professional care of the staff at Greenfield Retirement Center and NHC Oak Ridge for their attention to Jane's needs during her last years. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorials be made to the St. Stephen's Episcopal Church Music Ministry, 212 North Tulane Ave., Oak Ridge, TN 37830, or SARG (Shelter Animal Rescue Group), 124 Newell Lane, Oak Ridge, TN 37830. A memorial service is planned for July 8 at 11 a.m. at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Oak Ridge, and Martin Funeral Home of Oak Ridge is handling immediate arrangements.
Published on May 16, 2016