The Daily Herald writes that the funeral of Ronald Leon “Ronnie” Johnson brought together an impressive number of people Thursday afternoon at St. Paul’s Conversion Church in Windwardside. The gathering overflowed into the street as testimonials of his life were read. Many joined from abroad to pay their last respects to this much-loved, kind man and to extend their condolences to his family. He is survived by his wife Lucille, his sons Gary, Dean and Mark and four grandchildren.
Commissioners Bruce Zagers and Christopher Johnson were among the pallbearers. Johnson passed away Sunday, after attending church as usual. Many in the community knew the frail condition of this man’s generous heart. At 76, he was a paternal figure for many in the community though he kept his many philanthropic works known only to the beneficiaries. He enjoyed the reputation of a business pioneer. He established Big Rock supermarket, built Cottage Club Hotel and distributed gasoline as well as construction materials, making his efforts a central part of the local economy.
He also was the driving force behind local music band The Occasionals. Opening the tributes, Sister Jenni Jennings spoke of the vital way in which Ronnie supported the Living Water community and assisted in building the church rectory. Former member of the parliament of the Netherland Antilles Ray Hassell spoke not just as Ronnie’s cousin but also gave tribute to his good friend. He also spoke on behalf of the Occasionals. The band was a big part of Ronnie’s life in his latter years. The band had fizzled away for some time before Ronnie took charge of it and “blew new life into it,” making it the best-known Saba band. Hassell pledged to carry on the band. Rosa Johnson, the wife of Island Governor Jonathan Johnson, read highly emotional messages from Ronnie’s grandchildren. Commissioner Bruce Zagers’ wife Tracy read a message from Rany Shaheen, a man whom Ronnie treated as a son. Shaheen, originally from Palestine, worked at Big Rock and after learning Dutch was supported by Ronnie to pursue his studies in The Netherlands.
Presiding over mass, Father Robert “Bob” Johnson, assisted by Father Simon Wilson and Father Alphonso, invited all to celebrate life in thanksgiving for what Ronnie Johnson had brought to the community. In his homily, Father Johnson spoke of Ronnie’s passion for music and faith as intertwined saying, that music is the “Caribbean voice of God.” He also made mention of the deceased’s perseverance and faithfulness in a marriage of 54 years. He relayed the clergy and vicariate’s sympathy to the family pledging to keep Ronnie in their prayers.
The memorial mass ended with the eulogy read by Governor Johnson and by a graveside serenade and tribute by Occasionals Band.