Bob Johnson’s legacy lives in his business, family

Sandra ClarkFountain City, Halls

Robert E. “Bob” Johnson made a positive impact wherever he went. His friends and family were at Wallace Memorial Baptist Church on Tuesday for a celebration of his life. Mr. Johnson, 87, passed away June 9 and will be buried today (June 14) with military honors at the East Tennessee Veterans Cemetery.

Folks in Halls and Fountain City just called him Bob.

He founded the insurance agency that bears his name in 1964 and was present for its 50th birthday party. The agency is now owned by his sons, Doug and Ben.

Bob and Marilyn retired correctly, selling their house and business to move to Lake Tansi where they enjoyed golf while expanding their network of friends.

Display from Bob Johnson Insurance Agency

Bob always had a tale. There was his dog, T-Bone, who often returned from his morning run with a loaf of bread. Bob appealed to his neighbors and finally to the larger community through the Shopper. “Is T-Bone stealing your bread?” We published pictures. Finally, Bob discovered that T-Bone had found a source, possibly the old Bunny Bread store on Doris Circle. Memory fails.

Bob wrote the funniest Christmas letters. Somehow it became a tradition to publish them in the paper. He spared no one, and finally the family put a stop to the public printing.

Daughter Jennie Talley, a nurse, helped Marilyn and Bob during his final days. “Dad had lost the capacity to talk, but he was still there for me,” she said.

Daughter Mary Beth Hood shared a story that captures the love and prank-playing that bound the Johnson family.

Seems Bob taught the young Mary Beth to cross her eyes. When she was about 7, she crossed her eyes in an Easter photo. It was an awful sight. The picture surfaced in her high school annual in an ad for Bob Johnson Insurance: “Buy insurance from my Dad so I can get my eyes fixed.”

Mary Beth was mortified, but she got revenge. With the help of Ron Kennedy, she put an ad in the Halls High football program. It had a picture of Bob in profile with a potato extending his nose. “Buy insurance from Bob Johnson so he can get his nose fixed,” read the copy. “Compliments of Mary Beth.”

Doug said his dad roasted him on his 40th birthday: “You were the ugliest baby … You were so ugly that on the day you were born I went to the zoo and threw rocks at the stork … You were so ugly that we had to hang a pork chop around your neck to get the dog to play with you.”

Bob was master of ceremonies for many banquets, for the Halls Business & Professional Association as well as the Gideons and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. “He could have made a living as a comedy writer,” said Doug.

“Having a good time?” asked Ben. With a positive response, he turned to his siblings and said, “I knew we should have charged admission.”

Bob and Marilyn raised four strong, church-going children who honored their parents with loving tributes. So a bit of humor got in. Bob Johnson would not have wanted it any other way.

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