Cover photo for Barbara Jean Johnson's Obituary
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1928 Barbara 2019

Barbara Jean Johnson

August 21, 1928 — June 9, 2019

OSHKOSH - Barbara Jean Johnson, age 90, passed away peacefully on Sunday June 9th, finally catching up on all the sleep she had longed for. She was born Barb Massey in Lafayette Indiana on August 21st, 1928, the youngest daughter of Zola Mae (Applebee/Moore) Massey and Mora DeWitt Massey of Mammoth Cave, Kentucky.

Her then 44 year old banjo playing widowed father to be took Zola as a 2nd wife at 13 years old, thus Barb had 5-half brothers - Claude(Carl), Bill, Archie, Don and Clifford, some older than her Mom. Everyone in the family was involved in music and performing in various ways such as carnival acts and selling elixirs in traveling medicine shows. Clifford appeared in the 1936 film Oh Susanna playing ‘fiddle” along side Gene Autry as a member of the Light Crust Doughboys. The Doughboys were later inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and in 1995 the Texas Legislature declared them the official music ambassadors of the Lone Star State.

Barb began singing publicly at a very young age, learning to harmonize by age 4 she regularly performed at a variety of church events organized by her Mother, including many funerals, old folk’s homes and weekly services provided to jailed prisoners.

She gained notoriety around Lafayette as “The little girl who had to stand on a chair to reach the microphone” on air voicing religious songs accompanied on guitar by her Mom from WBAA Radio. The strict upbringing her Mother insisted on … no dancing, no make-up, no cavorting, contrasted with her passion for entertaining. She said it was “in her bones” and found ways to do what she loved.

She later formed a singing trio with her older sister Lillian and Lill’s sister-in-law Millie known as the Melody Three. As a teenager her group missed their big shot at fame when the manager of WASK in Lafayette got them an audition with The Lawrence Welk Orchestra, but Lill’s husband wouldn’t let them go.

As time went on The Melody Three became a short lived sister act called the Indiana Red Birds, so named for their bright red hair. She also played Ukulele and sang in a country/western music act with her half-brother Carl. Then at the start of WW2 Barb went solo as The Melody Sweetheart. She helped take down Hitler by singing requests on air, selling War Bonds.

Her two older brothers Leslie and Jim, who preceded her in death, both lost their hearing at a young age from Scarlet Fever. Among many accomplishments they became know as multi-sport athletes and skilled boxers, billing themselves as The Silent Hoosiers and boxing in the Golden Gloves Competition. Leslie later distinguished himself throughout a 41 year career with the Indiana School for the Deaf.

After the end of WW2 Barb met her soon-to-be husband Robert Turner “Bob” Johnson who had returned from a tour of duty in the Air Force in Okinawa, Japan to attend Purdue University. They met at a dance in March and were married three months later on June 21st 1950. Barb liked to stress … “they didn’t have to get married” but Bob was so concerned to tell his Mom about the marriage that it was kept secret until she was pregnant with their 1st child Marcia.

To help pay the bills while Bob was in school she worked for the Lafayette phone company, an A & P grocery store, waitressed at the famous XXX Drive-In near Purdue, and sold silverware door-to-door.

In 1953 Bob graduated as an Aeronautical Engineer and took a job with Kiekhaefer Mercury, moving to Oshkosh, Wisconsin with their now two children. Bob worked for what became Mercury Marine for his entire career, becoming vice president of engineering.

Barb and Bob raised 5 children in Oshkosh and enjoyed many years of travel adventures throughout the World and recreational activities at their cottage on Big Hills Lake in Waushara County.

In her younger days Barb enjoyed fishing, boating, bowling, snow skiing, snowmobiling and I think we even got her up on waterskis a few times. Throughout her life she always enjoyed playing piano, singing, dancing and taking care of her loved ones.

She sold Avon and volunteered delivering Meals-on-Wheels for a time. She became an avid Packer fan, and like many of us, bled green-and-gold throughout the years.

Above all, she made anyone she met laugh, feel loved and light of heart. Her sense of humor never failed her, even through many difficult medical issues towards the end of her life.

She was preceded in death by her daughter Marcia, her husband Bob, her brothers and sister and being 90 … just about everyone from her youth.

She is survived by her daughter Christine Johnson and grandson Taylor (Kalana) Johnson; Daughter Terry (Scot) Aaronson, grandson Wyat (Kimber) Aaronson and three great grandsons Bentley, Lincoln and Royce; Daughter Debra Johnson, grandchildren Alicia (Aaron) Widzinski, Lance Folske and great grandchildren Avery, Gavin and Livy; Son Eric Skoymyr (Jane Hu) and grandson Rayteng.

A service for Barbara will be held at 2:00 PM on Friday, June 21, 2019 at First English Lutheran Church, 1013 Minnesota St. Visitation will be held at the church from 12:00 PM until the time of the service. Burial will take place in Lake View Memorial Park. In lieu of flowers please consider a donation to the Wild Rose Volunteer Fire/Rescue Department; 145 Grant Ave., Wild Rose, WI 54984

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Barbara Jean Johnson, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Friday, June 21, 2019

12:00 - 2:00 pm (Central time)

First English Lutheran Church

1013 Minnesota Street, Oshkosh, WI 54902

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.


Friday, June 21, 2019

Starts at 2:00 pm (Central time)

First English Lutheran Church

1013 Minnesota Street, Oshkosh, WI 54902

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.


Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.


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