ONE of the things Hope is known for is its annual festival that celebrates its small-town heritage. If there’s anyone who represents the town’s agricultural tradition and its qualities of caring for the community and its residents, it is Barb Johnson.
Her list of contributions to the Hope community are many and have played a great role in preserving the community’s heritage in a way that serves to educate future generations.
Johnson, who lives in Hope and grew up on a farm just outside of town, was instrumental in helping the community restore and move Simmons School, the historic one-room schoolhouse, into Hope. The school, originally built in 1897, was restored and opened in Hope in 1992, and is located on the Hauser/Hope Elementary campus. Each year it is visited by about 90 classes — from as far away as Centerville in Wayne County — and Johnson serves as the head schoolmarm. The impact of Simmons School is statewide.
She served on the board of directors of Hope’s Yellow Trail Museum, a collection of Hope artifacts donated by residents, from 1986-2015.
Johnson also started a Veteran’s Day program at the Yellow Trail Museum to fill the gap when the local schools no longer offered it. That included her videotaping stories that veterans wanted to tell, so they could be shared with the community.
She has also served on the Hope Christmas of Yesteryear board, and the committee for the Old Fashioned Independence Day Celebration.
Johnson’s work isn’t done, either. One of her projects is to reintroduce the Rural Letter Carriers Association Museum — which had to be razed because it was unsafe — in order to share the town’s heritage of being one of the first communities in the country to offer rural mail delivery.
Johnson has exhibited deep love and caring for her hometown, and has made a positive difference in the Hope community that will be felt for years to come. For those reasons, she is a perfect choice to be The Republic’s 2016 Woman of the Year.