Sara Johnson

Obituary of Sara Elizabeth Johnson

Sara Elizabeth Stuart "Betsy" Johnson, age 67, a social worker and trainer with the Research Foundation of SUNY, died at Heritage House in Troy, NY, on Easter Sunday, April 4, of complications from uterine cancer. Born February 26, 1943, in Port Arthur, Texas, Betsy is remembered for her love of her daughter Melinda, the state of Texas, the Chicago Cubs, and for her sense of humor, which was best felt in stories she told of her life and family. In Port Arthur, she grew up with her older sister, Sally Mell Stuart. Her father was a minister in the Disciples of Christ Church and her mother a homemaker and school teacher. The family moved to Indiana in the mid-50s where a younger brother, Christopher, was born. Betsy graduated from Shortridge High School in Indianapolis, IN, in 1960, and from Eureka College in Eureka, IL, in 1966 with a major in English. Betsy first began her social work career in 1966 with VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) on the Pima Indian reservation in Arizona, and on the Chippewa Cree Rocky Boy reservation in Montana. In 1966, she married Harold "John" Johnson, whom she met in VISTA. They spent their first year of marriage living in the New York metropolitan area where Betsy worked at Time Life Magazine. In 1967, she and John moved to Athens, West Virginia, where she had a radio show, "Betsy's Back Fence," on WLOH, and where she was later a child welfare case worker in the coalfields of Southern Appalachia from 1968 to 1970. They then moved to Morgantown, West Virginia, where in 1972 she earned a Masters of Social Work (MSW) degree from West Virginia University. Betsy then enrolled in an International Social Work Program at the University College of Swansea in Wales, UK, completing a thesis comparing the health care delivery system of West Virginia to that of the United Kingdom. In 1974, the family moved to Tarrytown, NY, where her daughter Melinda was born and, in 1977, to Ithaca, NY, where Betsy worked as a social worker with Tompkins County Hospital, and then at Cornell University as a trainer for the NY State Department of Social Services until 1985. She then went to work for Buffalo State University as a trainer, and in 1992 as a director of foster care in Syracuse, NY, for Gateway foster care services. In 1999, she began work for the Research Foundation of SUNY, where she worked as a social work trainer for ten years and was known as one of their most popular and effective trainers. Betsy once said, "I'd like to go back and do it all over again." Betsy is survived by a daughter, Melinda A. Johnson of Cambridge, MA; a brother, Christopher Stuart of Del Mar, CA; and her mother, Alpha Mell Stuart of Del Mar, CA. Funeral services will be held in Burton, TX, at Bethany Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that a memorial donation be made in the form of a check made out to The Community Hospice in Rennselaer, NY, (295 Valley View Blvd., Rennselaer, NY 12144) or to Gilda's Club of Albany, NY (1 Penny Lane, Latham, NY 12110).
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