It’s remember time again

Published 9:00 am Monday, February 11, 2013

Then there was Frank Johnson. He earned his Air Corps Aviation Cadet wings and then was denied the opportunity to wear them by the winding down of WWII. I used to enjoy “hangar flying” with him at breakfast at McDonalds. He paid me the compliment of saying to our fellow storytellers that “when it comes to airplanes, that Goodwin fellow knows what he’s talking about.” A scrappy little guy, Frank was known to use muscle to enforce his independence. I always gave him the respect I thought he deserved, and have missed him of late.

Fran and I have just returned from Texas where we had to say goodbye to another of her brothers. Mitch was the older of three that she helped to raise while her mother worked full time. Mitch was an artist who taught some 6,000 children art at a junior high in Arlington. His college preparation for his chosen career was interrupted by Army service in Vietnam, where he did some tall “growing up,” in his words.

Mitch was a “character,” by all accounts of those who spoke at the celebration of his life. These included family as well as community . . . I half expected him to join the party, for indeed it was. There were as many tears shed in mirth as in sorrow at that gathering. The music included solo voices, grand harp, grand piano and combinations. His friend Cynthia Clausson sang to him for hours as he lay dying in the hospital, then offered three solos at the service.

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I bought the first painting that Mitch sold, but his acrylic paintings and watercolors adorn many other walls. I still have a still life of fruit in a wooden bowl that I painted during an “art lesson” Mitch gave me for Christmas one year. Mitch was so busy with civic programs and activities, plus flowers and other arrangements for plays, weddings and dance recitals, that I have no idea how he made time to do paintings and watercolors. He received many prestigious awards, including the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s top honor: Man of the Year in 2001.

He has worn a full beard most of his adult life. One year his school banned facial hair; his principal was dismayed when dutifully clean-shaven Mitch arrived for classes next day.

“I did not mean you, Mr. Wilson!” he pleaded helplessly. Mitch’s last conscious act was to have his barber spruce him up. “I can’t have my friends see me like this,” he said. Yep, he was still “in charge” even as he lay in state.