Newport, OR (June 14, 2022) — Lucinda Taylor, Habitat for Humanity of Lincoln County
We lost a valued member of the Habitat family when Warren Johnson passed away peacefully at his home in Salem on June 1. Warren and his wife Linda lived in Lincoln County from 1981 to 2002 and were instrumental in founding our local Habitat for Humanity of Lincoln County affiliate. In a letter from 2018, Warren described how it all began.
“In August 1994, Linda and I were living at Beavery Beach when Linda saw an article in the Oregonian about former President Jimmy Carter helping build a Habitat house in a small Georgia community. Linda said to me, ‘I wonder why there is no Habitat for Humanity program in Lincoln County.’ I said, ‘I don’t know, why don’t you start one!’ She said, ‘Maybe I will.’”
Linda made good on her promise by organizing a meeting in Newport in November 1994. She advertised for volunteers in the newspaper and on the bulletin boards of local churches, including the First Presbyterian Church of Newport where they were members. As Warren described it, “We assembled a group of about a dozen volunteers interested in establishing a Habitat program in Newport. The night of this first meeting… was ‘holy hell weatherwise’ as it was pouring rain and the coast winds must have been 50 or 60 miles per hour!” Dr. Bill Lindsay, a board member with a Habitat affiliate in Portland, passed out Habitat literature and a copy of sample bylaws and suggested ways to start a Habitat program.
Warren and Linda then developed a flyer to recruit more volunteers, with many showing up from the Catholic Church, the First Presbyterian Church, and the Lutheran Church. By their third meeting, they had 28 volunteers. “We beat the buses for folks who would agree to make monthly gifts to the new agency. I pushed to find 25 people who would pledge to give $25 a month to Habitat. If we could do that we’d have at years’ end at least $7500 to get the program started.”
The Johnson’s efforts paid off and Habitat for Humanity of Yaquina Bay was founded in May 1995. The initial board of directors, as listed on the Articles of Incorporation filed with the State of Oregon on May 26, 1995, included Warren and Linda Johnson and Walter and Margaret Roehmer. Six years later, in May 2001, the organization’s name was changed to Habitat for Humanity of Lincoln County. “I can’t tell you how happy Linda and I are that the program we started has built, since then, 14 homes in Lincoln County,” Warren wrote in 2018. Since then, two more homes have been completed and two more are in the permitting process.
Habitat wasn’t the only organization to benefit from the civic-minded Johnsons. I was fortunate to meet Warren and Linda at their home in Salem in February 2020. Warren shared fond memories of working with the local Foodshare program and the board of Samaritan House. He expressed his love for the coast and the friends he and Linda had grown close to during the 21 years they lived here. At the time, they were still hopeful they would be able to visit again.
Warren and Linda never lost their dedication to supporting affordable housing. Warren continued to make a monthly donation until his death earlier this month. Even then, his family continued their support by donating Warren’s vehicle through Habitat’s Cars for Homes program (https://www.habitat.org/support/donate-your-car). Even in their time of grief, this family continues to think of the welfare of others, a trait I’m certain they learned from their parents.
Warren grew up in Gary, Indiana. He met Linda in 1953 when he was serving as the Director of the Cincinnati Speech and Hearing Center and she was in training for her career in occupational therapy. Warren later served as the Director of the Portland Center for Hearing and Speech at the University of Oregon Medical School (now OHSU), a position he held for twenty-six years. During that time, he oversaw construction of a new Otolaryngology Center on the medical school campus.
Warren and Linda have three children, six grandchildren, and multiple great grandchildren. In his letter from 2018, Warren said, “I’m now 90 years old but don’t feel that ancient.” He lived a rich and vibrant life, filled with love for his family and service to his community.
A memorial service will be held at the First Presbyterian Church of Portland on June 20 at 1:00 pm with a simple reception to follow.
For more information or to help support the HFHLC mission, please visit www.hfhlc.org or contact Lucinda Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541.351.8078.
About Habitat for Humanity of Lincoln County
Habitat for Humanity of Lincoln County is a non-profit organization building homes, community, and hope. We bring together volunteers and community resources to build new residential housing and refurbish existing structures, then sell them to low-income families with an affordable mortgage that meets their income level. We also provide home repairs for low-income families to improve safety and accessibility, helping extend the life of the home and allowing owners to age in place.
HFHLC’s ReStores accept donations of building materials, furniture and appliances, and offers them to the community at a low cost. The ReStores provide much needed program revenue and divert usable and recyclable materials from our local landfill.
Photos: Linda and Warren Johnson, February 2020 (upper top).
Warren and Linda Johnson on their wedding day (lower bottom right).