Floral 11

Zelma Johnson

January 23, 1930 ~ May 9, 2022 (age 92)


Zelma (Laura) Johnson was born January 23, 1930 to Elmo and Laura Green in Centerville, Mississippi. At 16, Zelma married Kenner Johnson who had just returned from serving in WWII and they had six children, Shirley, Kenner, Louis, Brenda, Linda and Terry, as well as one stepson, Charlie.

From a young age, Zelma had sought to leave the south and in 1958, she found a way. A lady at a bus stop told her of a place called Oregon that had both jobs and good educational opportunities for her children. She bought a one-way ticket with just a pillowcase of belongings and made a new life in Portland. Within the first week, she had gotten a house and by the second month, she had purchased a car, drove back to Louisiana, and brought her family to Oregon.

Zelma worked hard to build a life in Portland. She worked numerous jobs, always excelling, and eventually built a catering/housekeeping business with some of the most influential people in the West Hills, particularly known for her Louisiana style cooking. During this time, she became the first female taxi driver in Portland! Through perseverance, Zelma and Kenner were able to buy their first house on 8th street. She later was also able to buy a five-acre farm in Troutdale – a place that reminded her of her childhood home.

Zelma’s faith in God became a core part of her life. She was a founding member of Maranatha Church, and later joined Sharon Seventh-Day Adventist Church, becoming one of the first female elders in Oregon for the SDA church. She also spent time in Kenya as a missionary. Upon retiring, she became a foster parent with the Morrison Center, helping over twenty children and in doing so, received one of Morrison Center’s most prestigious awards of recognition.

Zelma’s life was not without heartache. In 1978, her husband, Kenner, passed away from cancer. In addition to her husband, she was preceded in death by three of her children, who she missed dearly: Linda, Louis and Brenda. Despite deep heartache, Zelma held strong in her faith and heart for others. She became a prayer warrior and mentor to countless people that God brought to her door and phone, including neighbors, church members, family, and even strangers!

On May 9, 2022, after a special Mother’s Day family gathering, she went to sleep in Jesus, surrounded by her loving family.



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 Service Program


Funeral Service
June 4, 2022

4:00 PM
Sharon Seventh Day Adventist Church
5209 NE 22nd Ave.
Portland, OR 97211

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