By Fletcher Word
The Truth Editor
For more than four decades Billie Johnson has overseen the Area Office on Aging of Northwest Ohio, constantly increasing services for senior citizens, expanding the breadth of coverage to 10 counties and many thousands of seniors, growing the agency from the staff of four when she started to over 180 today.
On Monday, March 27, the Lucas County Commissioners recognized Billie Johnson for her service, for the love she has shown for the area’s seniors, by honoring her in a surprise ceremony and adding her plaque to the County’s Wall of Friends – only the 19th person to be so honored.
Over 60 people – friends, family, elected officials, agency heads – crowded the Lucas County Commissions’ chambers to be part of the event, to show their respect for a community icon.
A number of speakers spoke of the love that Johnson has shown for so many in the community – particularly senior members of the community. During Monday’s ceremony, Johnson received a repayment of that love, an outpouring of affection from so many who have known her over the years.
“Love, honesty, integrity,” said Doni Miller, CEO of the Neighborhood Health Association, in describing the qualities she has admired in her friend’s character for 30 years. “Your commitment to seniors is boundless … you carry every one of us on your shoulders.”
“Thank you for the lives you have touched,” said Bill Harris, chairman of the Area Office on Aging board and someone who has known Johnson for more than 40 years.
Johnson’s daughter, Rhonda Sewell, also spoke of her mother’s background and her commitment to family and the community. “She loves with her entire heart,” said Sewell. “We look upon you and we are renewed.”
Of the many highlights of the morning ceremony, a sketch by Lucas County Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak, doing an impression of Johnson answering multiple phone calls and solving numerous problems for the community, was the comedic highlight of the event. “A day in the life of Ms. Billie Johnson,” Skeldon Wozniak titled the piece.
The Area Office on Aging is viewed as one of the premier such agencies in the United States and has receive 11 national achievement and innovation awards. Johnson has been responsible for the development of three wholly-owned subsidiary corporations which offer apartment living for low-income senior citizens in North Baltimore, Defiance and Napoleon, Ohio. She also organized the agency’s Foundation Board and developed a 46-acre campus which includes a full continuum of care for seniors.