Barbara Johnson, 56, charter member of the Nassau County Legislature for the 11th District, died on March 9, after a long and courageous battle with breast cancer.
Legislator Barbara J. Johnson.
Legislator Johnson conveyed charm and confidence whenever she entered a room. While fellow politicians may have admired her strength, political savvy and high energy, her friends and close colleagues would probably also mention her enormous generosity and class.
Legislator Johnson, an attorney with an active law practice in Mineola, had just been re-elected to her third term, capturing 66 percent of the vote.
"She was an outstanding person who fought valiantly and courageously," said Presiding Officer Judy Jacobs. "She was a lady of dignity and class and represented her district with diligence and love. She was one of my dearest friends and has left a great void."
"Legislator Johnson is mourned by her colleagues on both sides of the aisle and the entire staff of the Nassau County Legislature," added Jacobs.
"She was an inspiration to all of us," said Deputy Presiding Officer Roger Corbin.
"She was an extraordinary lady who possessed amazing strength," said Alternate Deputy Presiding Officer Lisanne Altmann.
She will be especially missed in Port Washington, where she lived for 25 years. In addition to being an extraordinary advocate at the local government level for Port, her personal generosity to local charities and causes is legend. And, being the true philanthropist that she was, she made her donations quietly.
Claudia Doliner, a close friend and local Democratic leader, recalls the time that Barbara personally paid to have a ship delivered from Port Jefferson to Glen Cove, to be put on display in Hempstead Harbor. That ship had saved thousands of lives transporting Jewish refugees from Germany to Switzerland during the war.
Hal Doliner recalled how Barbara donated six months of her town councilwoman paychecks to various charities, after being out of work during that time to take cancer treatments.
Jake Eisenmann spoke of Barbara's commitment to the enviornment and is reminded of the time that he mentioned that if a special survey of Manhasset Bay were done, it would help to obtain grant monies to improve the bay's health. He quickly saw a check for $5,000 from her personal account for the project.
After working closely with Barbara on the Lacer Disc program that she personally funded, PWPD School Resource Officer Tony Guzzello summed it up: "She's a sweet lady. She's a gem." He adds, "The children of Port Washington benefited from her sponsorship of the program. She loved children and the children loved her."
In her eulogy at the Sunset Chapel, Rabbi Davidson of Port Jewish Center said, "I think Barbara loved politics because she loved people. It sounds trite, but it's nevertheless true. She was genuinely interested in the people she met and the people she served, as a lawyer and a legislator. Barbara could talk to anyone about just about anything. And, no matter what the topic of conversation, you always felt that you had her undivided attention. She was a good talker, but of equal importance is the fact that Barbara was also a really good listener. She heard what you said, and sometimes even what you didn't say."
Myron Blumenfeld, chairman of the Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington, offered this tribute: We have lost a beautiful friend. Barbara was a committed supporter of our mission for more than two decades, and we will deeply miss her.
Speaking about Barbara's legacy, Assemblyman Tom DiNapoli said that it is one of loving wife, caring mother, outstanding community advocate, and an outspoken leader for her constituents and the people of Nassau County. I am confident that the issues that she has so successfully and skillfully advocated---public health, environmental protection, economic responsibility, and improving the quality of life---as a community leader, as a Town Council person, and as a County Legislator---will continue."
TONH Supervisor May Newburger described Barbara Johnson as "a person of heart, courage and deep caring for her community." She spoke of her "courage in dealing with a hideous disease." "She had the ability to say yes to life in the face of unbelievable odds and tried every possible medical way to keep going, always looking wonderful."
Congressman Gary Ackerman commented, "Barbara Johnson was a model for everyone both in the way she led her life and in the way she confronted her illness. Her contributions to public service and to great grace under pressure will be sorely missed by us all. We grieve with her husband and her children, and all the people to whom she dedicated her life and her career."
Barbara's son Craig said that while his family is certainly grieving, they are focused more on "celebrating her life. That's the way she would want it."
A survivor in every sense of the word, Johnson was first diagnosed with breast cancer 14 years ago. She agreed to take part in an experimental treatment, which proved to be life saving. No one could argue that her incredible tenacity had also played a big role in her remarkable recovery.
Following her recovery, she built a new career in public service and was elected to the Town of North Hempstead Board.
Although she had often said that she didn't wish to be known as the breast cancer legislator, she always extended herself to any person or organization that focused on breast cancer research or funding. She instituted an annual free seminar with chiefs of breast cancer from Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center who define the latest developments in the treatment of breast cancer. In 1998, she secured a $2,000 grant for the Manhasset Women's Coalition Against Breast Cancer.
One of her major accomplishments last year was her charge to push the Baxter Pond restoration project, located in the village of Baxter Estates, through the numerous legislative steps. It was only through her hard work and strong belief in the project that the plan cleared its final hurdles.
Prior to her election to the Legislature, Ms. Johnson served as a Town Councilwoman in the Town of North Hempstead, where she was elected in 1991 and served until December 1995. Ms. Johnson's first experience with Nassau County government came as the municipal liaison to the Nassau County Board of Supervisors, where she served from 1990-1991, during the tenure of Supervisor Ben Zwirn.
Barbara is survived by her husband, Stuart, and children Karin, Craig and daughter-in-law Liz.