Music 20

Robert Blair Johnson

December 30, 1924 ~ January 25, 2020 (age 95)


Robert Blair Johnson, of Wernersville, PA, died on January 25, 2020 at the age of 95. Formerly of Pittsburgh and North East, PA, he was an active resident of Phoebe Berks Village retirement community in Wernersville since 1999.

Born December 30, 1924 on the family farm in Ripley, NY, Robert graduated from Ripley Central School and Columbia University. A veteran of WW II, he served in the United States Army from 1944 to 1946, earning the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. He worked for 29 years in the Social Security Administration, managing regional offices in New York State and Pennsylvania, and eventually becoming Area Director for the western Pennsylvania region.

Throughout his life Robert was active in the Episcopal Church, most recently at St. Alban's Episcopal Church in Sinking Spring, PA.

Robert loved music: he was an avid amateur singer with numerous community and church choirs, and was a professional trumpet player. As a teen he played in big bands and jazz combos around the Erie (PA) and Chautauqua (NY) County areas. He was a member of the Blue Lions while at Columbia University, and played in bands and as a bugler in the Army. He was a founder and the last surviving member of the original “Phantastic Phoebe Phive,” a five-piece jazz combo made up of Phoebe Berks residents that entertained the Phoebe community for many years with regular concerts, dances and an annual New Year’s Eve party.

Robert was predeceased by his wife of over 65 years, Portia Jeanne (née Knott) Johnson; parents Rosemary (née Bill) Johnson and James Long Johnson Sr. of Ripley NY; and brothers James Long Johnson Jr. and William David Johnson. He is survived by his daughters, Joanne Melvin (Tom) of Calgary, Canada, Laura Johnson (Paul Salerni) of Bethlehem Pa., and Martha Johnson (Seth Jacobs) of Slack Hollow Farm, Argyle NY; and grandsons Domenic and Miles Salerni (Rachel Hawkes), Kalon and Adin Jacobs-Johnson, and Baussman Melvin. Robert was deeply loved by all who knew him and is greatly missed.

Arrangements are being made for a memorial service to be held at the Phoebe Berks Retirement Community on a date to be announced. In lieu of flowers, donations in Robert’s memory can be made to the Phoebe Berks Health Care Center.

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