Lucy Johnson, 82, who cooked for pleasure as well as on job

August 23, 1996|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Lucy Johnson had a habit that drove her neighbors crazy. Often, about 3 a.m., she'd begin cooking, the zesty aromas wafting through her rowhouse community in Southwest Baltimore awakening residents.

"It used to get to me because it smelled real good," said Eugenia Monroe, who lived next door to Mrs. Johnson on Rosedale Street.

She added, "I found myself having to run over there every day."

Mrs. Johnson died Sunday of undetermined causes at the Summit Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Catonsville. She was 82.

Neighbors say they will miss the smell of fried fish and homemade biscuits.

"That was just the way she did it," Mrs. Monroe said of Mrs. Johnson's habit of cooking in the wee hours while listening to gospel music on the radio.

Mrs. Johnson had been a cook since she moved to Baltimore from Annapolis in 1931 when she was 18, working first in private residences, then joining the city school system.

She worked for the city for 30 years, most recently at Calverton Middle School, and retired about 20 years ago. She also cooked at a stall in the former North Avenue Market.

Mrs. Johnson enjoyed cooking for the students as much as she did for her family, said her daughter, Viola Gross of Annapolis.

"That's just what she liked to do most," Ms. Gross said. "It didn't matter for who, she was happy when she was cooking."

Mrs. Johnson made dishes such as crab imperial, lemon pound cake and rice pudding from either of two small kitchens in her home. Yesterday, the sifters, spatulas and pots and pans hung idle on the walls.

"She made everything from scratch and never used measuring cups or recipes. She didn't need those," Ms. Gross said. "She just knew how much of everything to use for everything she made. And she never made anything that didn't taste good."

Mrs. Johnson once fell asleep while baking a turkey. Turkey juice spilled into the oven, sending smoke throughout the house. Firefighters were called.

"She came downstairs as if to ask why all of these firefighters were here," Mrs. Monroe said. No damage was done and it was perhaps her only mishap ever in the kitchen, friends and relatives said.

Mrs. Johnson was also a stickler for fresh ingredients and refused to use canned goods or food she hadn't examined.

"She wanted everything to taste the best it could," Ms. Gross said. "You couldn't get her recipes, either, because she'd say, 'A pinch of this,' or, 'A little bit of that.' I guess no one will ever fix anything like she used to."

Services will be held at noon today at St. Luke United Methodist Church, Gilmor Street and Riggs Avenue.

Other survivors include her husband, Oscar Johnson of Baltimore, whom she married in 1946; and six grandchildren.

Pub Date: 8/23/96

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