November 5, 1931 – April 7, 2022
We have lost Patricia Johansson, and while she is at rest, those of us who remain are bereft.
This remarkable, witty woman died in the care of Kate B. Reynolds Hospice Home, to whose staff we offer heartfelt thanks for their gentle and attentive kindness.
Born ninety years ago in Cedartown, Georgia, the only child of Mary Helen Brock and William E. Adams, Patricia Jo Adams (would have been Patricia Josephine, but there wasn’t room on the birth certificate) persistently pursued the desires of her heart – family, learning, fellowship, faith, and connection with the natural world.
She interrupted her university studies at age eighteen to marry and have, between the years of 1951 and 1959, five children. While raising them, she ventured into family-scale dairy and organic vegetable farming as a complete novice, long before this was in vogue, researching energetically and becoming a familiar figure at the Forsyth County Agricultural Extension.
Apparently finding herself with time on her hands when her youngest child began school, she turned her attention to her second great love, literature, and determined to complete the studies that she had suspended fourteen years earlier. She enrolled in Winston-Salem State College (now WSSU) and, upon completing her degree in 1968, became the first White graduate in the institution’s history (very easy to pick out at the graduation ceremony!).
She went on to earn her Master’s in English in 1969 from Wake Forest University, where she was immediately hired to join their English department and where she remained until her retirement in 1998. During her long, rich career at Wake Forest as a member of the teaching faculty and an academic dean, she was one of the earliest recipients of the Reid-Doyle Prize for Excellence in Teaching (1973-74) and taught and counseled thousands of students, many of whom became her lifelong friends.
In 1971, during a summer spent with the family at the Moravian mission in Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, Pat welcomed her sixth child, four-year-old Joanna. Joanna (Eric) Tesh, together with Christopher (Victoria) Johansson, Melinda Johansson (Reed Wallace), Alan (Debbie) Johansson, and Charity Johansson (Memory Dossenbach), and Theresa Johansson (Emilio Santini), brought her a lifetime of joy and fulfillment. Not that we did not give her all the stresses and strains that children do, but she rode those waves with grace.
In 1984, Pat’s life was transformed when she led her first Wake Forest semester in Venice, Italy, exploring the Italian influence on authors she loved and coming to know Dante. She would return for two more extended periods in Venice, once with the second group of students and once as the hostess of Wake Forest’s Casa Artom. Her relationships with those two groups of students were among the most meaningful in her life, and the city lodged in her heart forever.
Pat’s life was full and varied. From Chaucer to Faulkner, from the Beowulf poet to Stoppard, there was room in her keen, scholarly mind for the whole host of literary greats. And there was room there, too, for a good double crostic (ideally with gin and tonic in hand) or a hotly contested game of Rook, a day spent nurturing plants or an evening of contra dancing, a full slate of baseball stats (and a soft spot for Ted Williams), or lessons in cooking from Julia Child.
She was preceded in death by her husband, Donald, and her eldest son, Chris. She is survived by eleven children and children-in-law, eleven grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren.
Her care for others – her family, her friends, her students, and those she counseled through Stephen Ministries – was the constant through-line of her life. She loved, she served, she shared. And she perpetrated some wicked April fool’s pranks. We will miss her sorely.
In lieu of flowers, we suggest a contribution to Stephen Ministries or another organization of your choice that supports kindness, education, or the environment. And read a good book.