Residents of Yeadon celebrated the life and accomplishments of Myrtle Belcher Rawlins Johnson, 91, during the mayor’s citizen’s forum held at Yeadon Borough Hall on Thursday.
Johnson, who was born in February 1923 in West Virginia, moved to Yeadon in 1963 and was one of the first African Americans to reside in the borough at the time.
During the tribute, Johnson’s life of service to her family and the residents of Yeadon was recognized by friends, family members and a host of elected officials, which included State Rep. Ronald G. Waters, U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, state Sen. Anthony H. Williams and others.
“I’m so thrilled and overjoyed with all of this speaking that I am going to have to read the thing to see if I’m alive,” said Johnson to the audience referring to her speech.
“Can you imagine what it is to feel loved and be loved? Do you know that when we fill it all up like a bucket that we won’t have to worry about the Ferguson’s, we won’t have to worry about anything because we will be walking hand-and-hand with the police and with each other.”
Johnson was animated and energetic during the tribute in which she shared her favorite stories with the audience and admonished them to engage in their communities and act respectfully.
“I got stuff on this paper [to read] but I don’t need it,” said Johnson referring to her written speech, which she passed over, choosing instead to speak directly to the people face-to-face. “If we as a people just got ourselves together we could just take over this Yeadon and it would be blooming with love and peace and joy.”
Rohann K. Hepkins compared Johnson to civil rights leader Rosa Parks.
“She’s lived a life of integrity, she has been on the cutting edge and has been a pioneer,” he said. “She has been a great leader in volunteerism in serving Meals on Wheels, which feed folks who are not ambulatory, and she did that for over 30 years.”
She also actively participated in the Friendship Circle, where she regularly visited the sick in the hospital, and visited the elderly in senior homes, where she read to them, and also helped them with their transportation needs and shopping.
“I believe that because of her volunteerism, she is a mother of the community and is very graceful and someone we can look up to and emulate,” Hepkins said.
Johnson was also the first African American to attend the Chapel of The Good Shepherd, where she has attended now for 30 years, providing such services as Sunday school teacher, deaconess and vacation Bible school teacher.
“I believe no one else exemplifies the life of service of Ms. Myrtle Belcher Rawlins Johnson,” Hepkins said.