- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Frederick Johnson, the former chief of staff at Physicians Memorial Hospital, now Civista Medical Center, died March 13 at the Charlotte Hall Veterans Home. He was 91.
A co-worker of Johnson’s, Dr. Guillermo Sanchez, who now serves as the volunteer staff historian for Civista, said that hospital records place Johnson as the chief of staff in 1968 and 1969. While Johnson worked for the hospital, Sanchez said, he delivered more than 2,000 babies. At the time, the hospital did not employ any obstetricians, Sanchez said, so a general practitioner’s duties were many.
“He would sometimes assist in surgeries, and at that time, there was really no one else available,” Sanchez said. “He’d close his office just to come help.”
Sanchez said he had many fond memories of Johnson.
“He was a very good friend of mine,” Sanchez said. “He was involved in many other activities. He was a pilot. ... There are so many good memories that it’s hard to pinpoint just one.”
Although Johnson’s children and grandchildren had different memories of him, all shared a common thread: In their eyes, he was a giving man dedicated to the good of his family, friends and community.
Christopher McPhee, Johnson’s grandson, recalled him as someone who “functioned in a giving way and was trying to set a tone for how to give back.”
“When I was younger ... it seemed clear to me the impact he’d made on people,” McPhee said. “He liked everyone, it seemed. He always had a story about people we’d run into and how he had met them. That was cool to see that. That, to me, was very representative of La Plata as a small town.”
McPhee said his own career as a biochemical engineer was influenced by his grandfather.
“What I learned from him is that you can learn something from everybody,” McPhee said. “It was the example of compassion he set.”
Susan Johnson Manicke, Johnson’s daughter, said she inherited her love of the arts from her father, a precedent he set early in life for all of his children.
“Every morning, he’d wake us up by turning on all the lights and turning on classical music loudly. As I got older, that was always embedded in my head ... and now I know it,” Manicke said. “He made art and theater important in our lives. I’ll be forever grateful.”
Aside from his love of the arts, she said she also inherited her father’s concern for the people in everyday life.
“He taught me how to be interested in other people and how to care for them. ... He cared for so many people in La Plata and didn’t place any significance on how they could pay him,” Manicke said. “The people he’d serve would pay him in fish, in vegetables ... whatever they could afford. I tell people all the time that he was uninterested in making money, and he was. I think that was secondary to what he wanted to do in life. He gave unconditional love up until his very last day.”
When he was younger, Johnson’s son, Michael, used to go with his father on house calls as far away as Cobb Island and Nanjemoy.
“While he’d be inside tending to the patients, I’d be playing with their children,” Michael Johnson said. “People would come up to me who knew me because I’d been to their house and they knew my father, but I didn’t know them.”
Michael Johnson recalled hearing his father publicly speak out against the Vietnam War when the subject was broached at a local Boy Scout meeting, even though his opinion was unpopular. To this day, Michael Johnson said he views that moment as an example of his father’s “uncommon” brand of bravery. He also recalled aiding his father in the emergency room, and working with his siblings in his office.
“He was just very supportive of us,” Michael Johnson said. “He made sure he went to everyone’s games. ... He spread himself everywhere.”
Michael Johnson also recalled his father taking a quiet stand against segregation during the height of the civil rights movement.
“He touched a lot of people. He was very genuine. He treated everyone the same, black or white ... because he didn’t think it was right not to do so. I know he was well-respected by everyone around,” Michael Johnson said. “I looked forward to hanging out with him. He was a very interesting guy, on top of being my father.”
Johnson was an Ohio native born in November 1921 who moved with his family to Maryland at a young age. While enrolled as a graduate student at the University of Maryland, College Park, in 1944, Johnson left his studies to serve in the Army during World War II. After returning from the war, injured by mortar fire in Belgium, he married his wife, Joanne, in 1946, and the couple briefly lived in Delaware before settling in La Plata. Johnson began as a general practitioner in 1954.