J. Edward Johnson

BAILEY ISLAND – Ed would often say, “They don’t make people like they used to,” and the same could be said about him.

James Edward Johnson, 93, was born in “The House by the Side of the Road” on Orr’s Island, April 9, 1928. Even his birth set him apart. Bottoming out the kitchen scale that read 15 pounds, his actual birth weight is unknown. He passed away at home on April 2, 2022.

Ed cherished being raised in a loving family. He was the sixth child of Albert Edward and Bessie Evelyn (Wilson) Johnson of Orr’s Island. While admittedly not a willing student, he received solid academic lessons from the determined school marms at the Orr’s Island School House. However, the lessons learned from extended family and neighbors in the Lowell’s Cove fishing community formed Ed’s moral philosophy. He was an honest, hard working, and humorous man who was always there to help others.

He was the sole survivor when a shell struck his foxhole on the last morning of his tour in Korea. Upon returning home, he questioned his mother as to why he survived and her response set his life path. She simply said, “You are meant to be here. There are still many things for you to do in your lifetime” … and many things he did. Ed and his wife of 70 years, Connie, built their home on Bailey Island and established Johnson’s Oil Service in 1958. There they raised their two daughters, Laurie and Beth, and it was in this home that his daughters helped care for him during his last months.

A younger Ed was employed by Ward’s Natural Science in both Rochester, N.Y. and at the Orr’s Island Dogfish Lab, fishing from the Squalus. He and Connie would eventually purchase the dogfish wharf, which became Ed’s Fish House. He spent his retirement there building lobster traps, repairing gear and restoring his 1928 Woody. However, with his reputation for storytelling and never mincing words, he spent hours visiting and holding court entertaining neighbors, friends, and many a stranger, with his tales. Ed chaired many community organizations, but no one would work any harder than he did for the cause. These organizations included the Orr’s-Bailey Island Methodist Church where he was a member for over 70 years, serving as superintendent when the Sunday school boasted 100-plus children; the Bailey Island Library Hall; the Bailey Island Cemetery; the Bailey Island Fire Department; and the local Boy Scout troop.

Although he had no sons of his own, the Boy Scouts allowed him many adventures with his nephews. Ed earned his 60-year pin as a Free Mason and his 50-year pin as a Shriner. Attending the Shrine Circus with “Umpa” was an annual event that all five grandchildren looked forward to. At the invitation of neighbor, Rip Black, Ed visited opening day at Yankee Lanes in 1961 and was a regular for decades to come. Unbeknownst to all, he bowled his last game on the Will Ryder League on March 13, 2020, the start of the Covid shutdown. Ed also enjoyed many motorcycle road trips with good friend, Larry Foley. This island boy would go on to be featured in the New York Times and the National Geographic. However, in Ed’s opinion, his three greatest accomplishments included: working as a selectman with Laddie Whidden to make the Ewing Narrows Bridge and Mountain Road dream a reality, thus joining the two sides of Harpswell; receiving his Purple Heart in 2012 after waiting for 60 years; and being “Umpa” to five of the best grandchildren ever.

He was predeceased by his parents; and his siblings and in-laws: Joseph Johnson (Barbara), Elizabeth Bragdon (John), Deborah Morgan (Chester), Corey Johnson (Jeannette), and Marjorie Powers (Arthur). He is survived by his wife, Constance M. Johnson, Bailey Island; his faithful companion, Lacey, his cat; daughter, Laurie and Eric Smith and children Brooke, Megan, and Mason, Bailey Island; daughter, Beth and Bob York and children Benjamin (Connecticut) and Margaret, Orr’s Island; youngest sister, Mae Belle “Ruth” Perry, Bailey Island; and numerous nieces, nephews and friends.

A Celebration of Ed’s life will be held at the Bailey Island Cemetery, Saturday, April 16 at 1 p.m. with a reception to follow at 78 Oceanside Rd., Bailey Island. To leave a note, share a memory or view the slide show, please visit, http://www.brackettfh.com .

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Chans Home Health and Hospice Program, 45 Baribeau Dr., Brunswick, ME 04011, whose support made it possible for Ed to remain at home.

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