Known to most everyone as “Mimi,” “Aunt Deb,” or “Mrs. Debbie;” Deborah Anne Johnson, in her home in Martin, Louisiana, passed away with a smile on her face as she greeted her Lord and Savior to take her home on Sunday, May 28, 2023. Born in Pasadena, Texas on September 15, 1958 (though momma will swear it’s on the 21st – long story) Debbie was a young, feisty, and sassy 64-year-old who was the daughter of the late Martha and Kenneth Ivy; and left behind two siblings, Brenda Rushing, husband Michael Rushing; and Jimmy Ivy, wife Janis Ivy; two daughters, Leah and Leslie Johnson; and only grandson, the pride and joy (her favorite, though Leah will try to argue it), Joseph “Kyle” Guillory. She was also an aunt to Colby and Jenna Rushing, Tabitha and Johnny King, James and Kelsey Ivy, and Elise Ivy. Debbie also had a great-nephew and several great-nieces: Chance, Summer, Bailee, Jadyn, and Jessica (“Jessi”).
Debbie graduated from Martin High School where she was both a cheerleader and basketball player. She always told her girls that she hated school, but ironically enough, became an elementary school teacher. For approximately 25 years, Debbie taught at Mauriceville Elementary and Middle School as a PE teacher who made her students exercise by dancing to line dances such as the electric slide, the macarena, and the tootsie roll; but was also the middle school volleyball and basketball coach. The relationships that she built with her colleagues, students, and parents of students created forever friendships and memories. Then she moved to Beaumont ISD where she would retire from Jones Clark Elementary School with well over 30 years of educational experience.
Of course, her journey to be completely retired did not last long as she found herself coming out of retirement in order to work at Riverdale Academy as the Kindergarten teacher out in the “little red schoolhouse.” Her short three-and-a-half years teaching at Riverdale Academy created even more life-long friendships and bonds, so much so that they became family. She cherished the community, the one in which she grew up, and loved the fact that her grandson attended the same school in which she taught.
Anyone who met her would easily tell you that she had a smile that would brighten a room and warm one’s soul. Not only was that smile the first thing people commented on, but she also had such a loving, and tender spirit. There was never a time when Debbie would not reach out for a hug, wave excitedly across a room/field/gym, nor not talk with you about anything you wanted. She was a phenomenal listener and could be caught most times talking on the phone or sharing a cup of coffee with family and friends.
Besides her love for traveling to watch Kyle and the Rebels/Lady Rebels ballgames, you could usually find her chasing the dogs (unruly animals, so Leslie would say) out in the front pasture because they had zero recall, working in her yard trying to find more places to put flowers and plants even though there were already plenty, watching TV shows that her girls watched so she could have those special moments with each of them, or playing card games with her family that became sometimes vicious (Kyle may or may not have lost his life on one or more occasions). The one bond that she cherished more than anything was that with her grandson, Kyle. One could find “Mimi” spending time getting the school gossip or sharing secrets with Kyle and them holding a full conversation by stealing glances across the dinner table or living room.
Ultimately, these memories are ones that the family cherishes, but the truly inspirational piece to Debbie’s story was that with her battle against not just one, but two cancers; Ovarian and Acute Myeloid Leukemia. The past five years of her life were filled with so many storms, but to watch her fight, her will to stay positive even in the darkness, is one that touched many lives, young and old. The additional friends who became family, the community rallying together for the fight, and the community support provided to her girls and grandson, was one that she cherished deeply. That drive and will also resonated in her faith and belief that all things were in God’s hands. She never wanted this to be the thing that beat her, but in the end, Debbie, as a final act of defiance, made it home to be surrounded by loved ones as family and friends visited to share their stories with her and her daughters.
A celebration of life/memorial service will be forthcoming and posted on Leah’s social media pages.