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Reflections of Life Well Lived
In July 1932, a future leader, Earnestine Ethel Gary was born in Edenborn, PA to Solomon and Ethel Powell Gary. She was one of eight children. “Boo,” as she was affectionately called, began her education at the Edenborn Grade School. As a child, she was baptized at Antioch Baptist Church, was an active participant in Sunday School, and played the piano for the junior choir. Somewhere along the way, she changed the spelling of her name to Ernestine and answered to the nickname “Ernie.” Ernie was a good athlete. In fact, she was the best softball player in the neighborhood and always wanted to pitch.
Ernie graduated from German Township High School in McCellandtown, PA in 1950. After high school, she enrolled in the Sociology program at Virginia State College in Petersburg, VA and graduated on May 31, 1954. After graduation, Ernie relocated to Washington DC. She continued her education, earning a Master’s Degree in Administration of Justice from The American University and another Master’s Degree in Legal Studies for the Antioch School of Law.
Ernie was united in marriage to Samuel H. Johnson in 1955. From that union, they were blessed with two children, Gary, and Judith. One of the things they truly enjoyed was spending time with family and friends. Ernie (Miss E.) was a league bowler for over 50 years and traveled the country with her bowling friends participating in various tournaments. She also enjoyed “spanking” Gary and his friends. She would talk trash and get in their head and consistently remind them, that they “let an old lady beat them.”
Ernie started her government career in 1952 with the Department of the Air Force. This career included positions with the Foreign Operations Administration, the House of Representatives, and the Department of Health and Human Services. She received Honors for her outstanding service in the investigation of the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She joined the Metropolitan Police Department in 1954, and rose to the rank of Sargent before retiring in August 1977.
She was the driving force in the management of Lewis Funeral Home in Alexandria, VA and the establishment of J. K. Johnson Funeral Home, P. A. in Temple Hills, MD.
Over the course of her living in the Washington metropolitan area, she served as an active faithful member at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, Plymouth Congregational Church, Mount Sinai Baptist Church, Grace United Methodist, and most recently, worshipped with Genesis Covenant Church under the leadership of Pastor Robert Slade. She served as a Trustee at Mount Sinai Baptist Church for 19 years.
Ernie loved spending time with her family and friends. She always looked forward to her monthly lunch with the girls, her casino outings with family and friends, and her trips to the Senior Center to play bid whist. She was a strong, independent women, who lived her life on her terms.
On September 28, 2023, Ernestine made her final transition. She was preceded in death by her husband, Samuel H. Johnson, sisters Anna Gary and Mary Etta Hart Peterson; brothers, Solomon Gary, Jr., and Gothel Gary, and parents, Solomon and Ethel Gary.
She leaves to cherish her memory: her children, Gary A. (Deborah) Johnson, Sr., and Judith Johnson; grandsons, Gary Johnson, Jr., and Christopher Johnson; great-granddaughters, Zariyah and Erin McKinley, and Olivia Daniel; siblings, James (Beverly) Gary, Sr., Robert (Joyce) Gary, Arlene Creek; In-laws, James (Patricia) Brown, Fred (Ivy) Smith, Maggie Jordan, Cleveland Smith, Jr., and Danny Smith and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends. Her extended family includes “her other son”, Ronnie Williams, her caregiver and companion, Molly Gilmore, and so many other friends that are too numerous to list.
Ernie cherished each of you and know that your relationship with her held a special place in her heart.