Elwood Johnson, 64, steel worker Neighbors remember him as someone they could go to for help

July 09, 1996|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

If Elwood Johnson's car was in front of his Wilson Park house, it usually meant he was home. And if Elwood Johnson was home, it always meant he was available.

"And when he was there, man, there's no telling how he would try to help anybody do anything," said Calvin Trusten, a longtime friend. "You could ask him to go to the moon. He'd say, 'Give me a minute.' "

Mr. Johnson, 64, who died Saturday of heart failure at Greater Baltimore Medical Center, had been a fixture on Ivanhoe Avenue in the Northeast Baltimore community for more than 30 years.

His home -- a brick corner house with a red and white awning and neatly manicured lawn -- was where neighbors and friends gathered on the front porch on summer days to shoot the breeze and swap stories.

Mr. Johnson's house usually was the first place acquaintances went when they needed a favor.

"He was a good guy who'd do anything, give you a ride, anything," said Harold Lipscomb, a neighbor who also worked with Mr. Johnson for many years at the Bethlehem Steel Corp. plant in Sparrows Point.

When they worked at the steel plant, Mr. Lipscomb said, friends jokingly called Mr. Johnson "Bighead" and "Hoagie."

"We had a good time with him," Mr. Lipscomb said. "Old Bighead was a good person."

A native of Weldon, N.C., Mr. Johnson moved to Baltimore shortly after he graduated from high school. He began work at Bethlehem Steel in 1962 and retired in 1992.

In 1980, he married Lillie Mae Steele, who died in 1994.

Friends and neighbors gathered near Mr. Johnson's house yesterday to remember him.

"He always tried to be happy about everything and let nothing get him down," Mr. Trusten said. "I'll bet he's out there somewhere cruising around right now."

During a thunderstorm last year, Mr. Trusten said he asked Mr. Johnson for a ride to a supermarket about three miles away.

"He said could we please go after the storm, 'cause he really didn't like riding in a thunderstorm," Mr. Trusten said. "I said I wanted to go now, and finally he just gave me the keys to his car and said hurry back."

When Mr. Trusten returned, Mr. Johnson said the reason he didn't go to the store was not because of any fear of riding in a thunderstorm, but that heavy rain once before had made his car stop.

"I said, 'Now you tell me,' " Mr. Trusten said. " 'Thanks a lot.' "

Mr. Johnson is survived by a daughter, Ellen Gaither of Baltimore; a brother, John Johnson of North Carolina; a sister, Juanita Prince of Baltimore; a grandchild; and six great-grandchildren.

Funeral services will be at 6: 30 p.m. tomorrow at March Funeral Home, 1101 E. North Ave.

Pub Date: 7/09/96

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