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Published: Thursday, 4/30/2009

Longtime educator led board in Oregon

Cathy A. Johnson, 58, an educator in the Toledo Public Schools the last 35 years and a former Oregon Board of Education president, died April 22 in Hospice of the Comforter, Altamonte Springs, Fla.

She fought cancer the last 12 years. On April 16, after a full day as principal of Chase STEM Academy, she and her family went on vacation to Florida. She became ill the next day and went to an Orlando-area cancer center, her husband, John, said.

Before Chase, she was principal about 10 years at Oakdale Elementary School, during which the district built a replacement for the 1920s vintage school. She helped with the planning, retired, and was rehired to oversee the transition into the new Oakdale.

"She was always one who was very organized and very child-centered and very level-headed," said Bob Clark, a retired assistant superintendent and a former principal at Westfield Elementary, where Mrs. Johnson taught primary students for 19 years.

She played teacher as a child growing up in West Toledo, recalled her sister, Susan Koester, principal of Pickett Elementary School, who played student.

Mrs. Johnson was a graduate of Start High School, attended Bowling Green State University, and graduated from the University of Toledo. She taught at Westfield and Oakdale and was an assistant principal at Glenwood Elementary School and principal of Franklin Elementary.

"She liked making a difference with children, and she always felt that you don't ever give up on anyone," her sister said.

The East Toledo Family Center named her educator of the year in 2008.

An Oregon resident about 25 years, she brought her experience as a teacher and administrator to the school board, to which she was elected in 1999 and 2003. "People really trusted her," said her husband, a former head football coach at Clay and Waite high schools.

Jeff Ziviski, the current board president, said: "She was probably one of the best board members we've had in recent memory."

Surviving are her husband, John Johnson, whom she married July 14, 1978; daughters, Jamie, Leslie, Melissa, and Lindsey Johnson, and sister, Susan Koester.

The family will receive friends from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. tomorrow in the Hoeflinger-Bolander Funeral Home. Memorial services will be at 3 p.m. Saturday in Monroe Street United Methodist Church, where visitation will begin at 2 p.m.

The family suggests tributes to Hospice of the Comforter, Altamonte Springs, Fla., or Monroe Street United Methodist, where she was a member.

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