Oliver Rhett Johnson, Sr (a.k.a. "Moose, Ollie, Dad, Uncle O., Colonel J, Pam-Paw/P-Paw, O.") of Winnsboro, South Carolina, walked into the presence of his Lord and Savior on Friday morning, March 20, 2020. He was a man of God, who served him with his whole heart...
Oliver was born January 2, 1946, in Winnsboro, SC, to the late John Tilson and Ernestine Sanders Johnson, and was a brother to John, Martha, Ellis, Ridge and Uncle Rhett. Growing up initially on "The Mill Village" and then at "Tokaylon" off Rockton Thruway in South Winnsboro, Oliver grew-up playing every sport under the sun with his brothers and sister, countless cousins (Tommy Ketchin/"Rock" at the Top), and friends. Named for his grandfather, Rev. Oliver Johnson, DD, minister of Bethel ARP Church for 31 years, Dad was blessed with a deep faith early on. The Johnson house was full of faith, love, hope and joy and included his "Uncle Rhett", a role model of a Christian gentlemen. He attended Everett Elementary, played football for legendary Coach William "Lefty" Johnson, attended Mt. Zion Institute (MZI), where he played on the 1960 MZI State Championship Football Team, and graduated Senior Class President of Winnsboro High School Class of 1964. He entered the United States Military Academy (USMA) at the age of 18, following his hero, big Brother John, and playing four years of Army "Black Knight" Football, including a bid to the 1967-68 Sugar Bowl, and graduated with the West Point Class of 1968...."On brave 'ol Army Team!"
Upon graduation, Oliver attended Army Infantry, Airborne and Ranger Schools and then began his career as an infantry officer in Berlin, Germany, in 1968-69, where he married Sara Aldrich Richardson of Columbia SC, and welcomed their daughter, Harriot, into the world. He then attended Army Aviation Flight Training at Ft. Rucker AL & Mineral Wells TX and was assigned to the 101st Airborne "Screaming Eagles" flying UH-1 "Huey" helicopters over Southeast Asia in the Vietnam War, 1970-71. His 26 year career in the Army (1968-1994), took his family (Sara, "Boo"/Harriot, "Bubba"/Oliver Jr) around the country to include assignments: Ft. Jackson SC - Training Command; Ft. Benning GA - Advanced Infantry School, where "Bubba" was born; West Point - Physical Education Department Instructor; Sherman TX - Texas Instruments; Ft. Stewart GA - 24th Infantry Division; Ft. Leavenworth KS - Army Command & General Staff College Instructor; Ft. Ben Harrison IN - Army Physical Fitness School; Buies Creek NC - Army ROTC (Professor of Military Science) at Campbell University; The Pentagon - Army General Staff; and Puerto Rico - Inspector General of the National Guard.
Winnsboro SC, has always been "home" and every summer and Christmas were spent celebrating and spending time laughing, sharing stories, singing carols with Ridge/"Hawk", playing games and making memories with family and lifelong friends. Another constant in His life was love for sports to include running, golfing and college football....born a die-hard Clemson Tiger Fan, whose blood runneth orange (father "Big John", Clemson Class of 1937), "Moose" also enjoyed following every football team his "Little Brother Ellis" coached during his career. Dad would say some his greatest lifetime memories were the trips spent traveling to see his children and cheering on his teams He was always indebted to Martha/"Tina" & Bee/"Uncle Jimmy" for the countless times they cared for his dogs...
Following his Army retirement, The Johnson family returned home to South Carolina and his next career as a civilian included: Fairfield Central High School JROTC Instructor in Winnsboro, Southland Equipment & Gold's Gym in Columbia SC (1994-2001). Oliver then served as Newberry College Athletic Director in Newberry SC, Porter-Gaud School Athletic Director in Charleston SC, The Cliffs Valley Golf Course in Travelers Rest SC, and spent the years in Charleston and Saluda NC married to Deborah "Debbie" Penney of Saluda.
In 2008, Dad returned to "The Boro" and spent his final ~12 years serving Winnsboro on the Town Council and Bethel Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, where his father "Big John" and grandfather "PaPa" had served as an Elder & Minister. He served his "kirk" & Presbytery in various capacities as a Sunday School Teacher, Elder, Congregational Chairman, Clerk of Sessions, Mission Chairman, Deacon, Chairman of the Diaconate, "Old Brick Church" Commission, faithfully attended Presbytery and Synod meetings, and blessed others while visiting elderly and those in the hospital. These years were spent rekindling old friendships “catching up”, and he became a permanent fixture in town, walking his beloved dogs: little "Eli" & big "Honey"...and people could set The Town Clock by his "comings and goings". Never one to meet a stranger....each encounter with Dad included a smile and genuine exchange of interest. He set an example through not only what he did, but more importantly, who he was.....Oliver loved The Lord and people....in short, "His roots ran deep."
Dad/P-Paw will be deeply missed by all who knew and loved him.
He is survived by his son, Oliver Rhett Johnson, Jr. (Elizabeth Joy); daughter, Harriot Johnson
Gilbertson (Marc); three brothers, John Tilson Johnson, Jr. (Mary), Laurens Ellis Johnson, Elliott Ridgeway Johnson; sister, Martha Johnson Strain (Samuel Butler); seven grandchildren, Grace, Michael-Rhett, Henry, and Benjamin Gilbertson, and Joy, Sara, and Ella Johnson; as well as many nieces, nephews, and cousins.
We give thanks for Dad's life on this earth and we rejoice for His Life everlasting....
Child of God, Christian Soldier and now a Citizen of Heaven forever in the presence of JESUS CHRIST, His LORD & SAVIOR!
"Rangers Lead The Way" ”GO ARMY, BEAT NAVY”
"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid: do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9
"Let us cross over the river and rest beneath the shade of the trees." - Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson
“He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalms 46:10
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7
“If you declare with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, 'Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.' For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'” Romans 10:9-13
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
"Is death the last sleep? No, it is the final awakening." -- Sir Walter Scott, from Dr. Billy Graham's Unto the Hills" (devotional for 21 August)
"Love me at sunset."
Public Memorial services will be held at later date. Committal service will be private.
Service will be live streamed starting at 1:45 est. on Wednesday, March 25, 2020. Live Streaming tab will be located on our website on Oliver's page under services.
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