MLK Center director Ronn Johnson mourned at the memorial service

SPRINGFIELD — Family and friends commemorated the strength and accomplishments of Ronn Johnson at a memorial service at St. John’s Congregational Church on Saturday.

The service and tributes for Johnson, President and CEO of Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services Inc., were streamed online from the Hancock Street Church. During his lifetime, Johnson served the city’s youth, the underprivileged, the hungry and the disabled.

Mourners were asked to pray that God would empower and strengthen them as the Lord had empowered and strengthened Johnson – “a mighty oak tree in our community.”

In addition to prayers and readings, the service included a performance by singer Vanessa Ford and a number of tributes from friends and family.

Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity president James Lightfoot remembered his lifelong friend as a giant “whose presence was larger than life.”

“It was always an honor to work with Brother Ron,” Lightfoot said. “He always wanted to connect with people and get involved for the good of the community.”

Johnson, 63, died of a COVID-19-related illness on King’s 93rd birthday on Jan. 15. He was survived by his wife Donna, his two children Ronald and Brianna, his grandchildren and other family members.

Ronald Johnson said his father displayed many “qualities to emulate and emulate”.

“By his actions and his words, my father taught me many lessons,” said the younger Johnson. “My father taught me to be thoughtful and focused on whatever you set my mind to.”

State Sens. Adam Gomez, D-Springfield, and Eric Lesser, D-Longmeadow, were among those paying tribute to the late community leader.

“[Ronn Johnson]always made everyone feel loved and valued,” Gomez said. “I firmly believe that every step of the way he did God’s work.”

Lesser added, “His memory certainly lives on.”

Johnson, who graduated from Western New England College, worked at the Dunbar Community Center and the Center for Human Development before being hired as director of community responsibility at MassMutual.

About 10 years ago it was tapped to help rebuild Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services.

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