Family pays tribute to Noel Andrew Johnson

Noel Andrew Johnson, 1928-2018

Noel Andrew Johnson was born to Charles and Theresa Johnson on June 11, 1928, on the Isle of Pines, Cuba.

Vassel, Ivan and Mary were his older siblings and preceded him in death. His younger siblings are Beulah, Louise, Iva and Patrick. When Noel was 6 years old, the family came to live in the Cayman Islands. Their first home was at Dixie in George Town and they remained close friends with the Parsons and Boddens who lived there at that time and made them welcome.

Noel often recalled walking the mile from Dixie to attend Elmslie Memorial Church and the Government School. His love for God led him to become a member of Elmslie at the age of 18 during the Centenary Service of the church. Rev. George Hicks, who was instrumental in Noel’s spiritual and academic upbringing, put him to work in the church by letting him become a Sunday School teacher in his early teens. Noel never forgot that it was Rev. Hicks who gave him his first pair of shoes.

Noel was also a Cub Scout leader and enjoyed the time he spent leading the pack with Frances Bodden.

His early childhood was spent helping his father on their farm and then on Saturdays selling the vegetables and other provisions around the community. He loved the peanut cart, complete with whistle and steamer, that his Dad and Vassel made for the peanut sale rounds.

He also earned money by being a shoe-shine boy for the men of the U.S. Navy whose barracks were stationed behind the library. He worked hard to help his family but was still able to get a good education under Mr. Hill and Una Bush.

Noel completed his education when he passed the Third Year Jamaica Local Exam. His first job was as a messenger with the government, and he was very proud of the uniform his mother made him for this position.

In 1947, at the age of 49, his father passed away suddenly and Noel assumed the responsibility of helping his mother provide for the family. To provide this help, he went to sea, first with the Suwannee Fruit and Steamship Company and then with National Bulk Carriers. His first sea mates were Capt. Dell Bodden, Capt. Shelby Hydes, McNee McLaughlin, Clifton Bodden, Crosby Eden and Graham Ebanks.

After about 15 years at sea and having become an engineer, he left this career and went to Jamaica to work for a year with his brother-in-law, Alec Robertson. On his return to Cayman, he worked with the government’s Customs Department, then became the hospital manager and lastly was the Postmaster General, retiring in 1981. He then took a year off before working for several private companies. His happiest time was spent working for Harold Jay Bodden at his dredging company and he remained very close friends with this family. Mr. Bodden’s grandchildren have fond memories of styling Noel’s hair and of him driving them around on a golf cart at the company headquarters.

On Aug. 6, 1966, Noel married Effie Janet Panton. They were blessed with two sons, Andrew and Nicholas.

Noel held many positions at his beloved church. He was Sunday School Superintendent, Christian Endeavour leader, Home Group leader and was the last life elder of Elmslie. Many of the young people he taught in Sunday School and Christian Endeavour still remember him and have thanked him for his influence on their lives. Some of them love to recount how he would drive them home with a trip down to West Bay, stopping by the cinema for them to smell the popcorn if money was too short to buy a bag!

Noel also took an active role in the Cayman Prep School, Government Middle School and Government High School PTAs. He spent countless hours clearing the grounds at the back of the Prep School.

His final job, which he loved with a passion, was that of a Marriage Officer and Notary Public. He was most proud of the little book with the order of services given to him by Uncle Ernest Panton. He met, counselled and conducted the wedding services for 2,255 couples, something he greatly enjoyed.

His joy in life was helping others. However, so as not to ignore his flaws, we cannot forget his short temper. Thankfully, it was short-lived and he would usually quickly get over whatever the problem was.

Noel was diagnosed with dementia in his 80s but thankfully never forgot the members of his family and most of his friends. He loved to be taken for a drive by Andrew or Nicholas and, here again, he remembered many of the old landmarks. He enjoyed having Rev. Mason and some of the ladies from Elmslie visit him for communion and a short worship service. His sisters Louise and Iva, sister-in-law Rita, Rev. Godfrey Meghoo and Brother John Jefferson also visited him regularly.

His family loved him greatly as he was a most unselfish person, always wanting to give them something or do something for them. His children, together with their Panton and Chisholm cousins and friends, his nieces, nephews, and grandchildren, all recall their many hours of football and baseball in the backyard and also the many beach picnics with him.

Noel lived a very full life and passed away on May 11, 2018, one month short of his 90th birthday.

He leaves to mourn his wife Effie; son Andrew and wife Christie, her mum Cyndi, their children Jonah and his wife Sarah, Noelle and Davis; son Nicholas and his children Shelby and Tate; his siblings Beulah Robertson, Louise Dibben, Iva Good and Patrick Johnson and their families; his deceased sister Mary’s family; his sisters-in-law, Lady Rita Johnson, Lyn Johnson, Norma Panton, Nancy Panton and their families; brothers-in-law Ian Panton and Lowell Panton and their families; deceased brother-in-law Prentice Panton’s family; the Hutchinsons of Jamaica; cousins Roy, Ronnie, Carlton and families; special caregiver Nadine Dyer; friends and helpers Paulette, Pauline and Patsy; and many other relatives and friends.

Thanks be to God for a life well lived.

Submitted by the Johnson family

Support local journalism. Subscribe to the all-access pass for the Cayman Compass.

Subscribe now