By Ron Halbrook
Kate Hankins was the daughter of Murray and Susie Bell Hankins. She was born 15 March 1921 in Lamar County, Alabama and died 28 August 1993 in Birmingham, Alabama. She was a Christian for most of her life and her godly influence touched a great many people through the years. She was affectionately known as “Kate” to most who knew her, but she will always be “sister Johnson,” the wife of an elder, to me. Truly, to know her was to love her because she exemplified the beauty of holiness in so many ways.
Sister Johnson was a graduate of Lamar County High School and attended Florence State College (now North Alabama University). Jay F. Johnson married Kate on 19 December 1941. While her husband was in the army and overseas during World War II, she taught grammar school. After the war was over he arrived back in California and her teaching days ended so that she could re-turn to being a homemaker. Being a homemaker was her highest calling and she was deeply devoted to it. Their three children are Jane, Kay, and Louis, and in addition they have five grandchildren.
After obeying the gospel at age 16, Kate continued to grow and to be faithful throughout all the days of her life. She loved the Lord, the truth, and the church with great intensity. Severe back pain tested her for a number of years and yet she continued faithfully to attend the services, even though it meant standing at the back of the building at times because of the discomfort of sitting. The joy of spiritual refreshment and fellowship with the Lord meant so much to her that she often attended services when she did not feel like it.
Sister Johnson loved to teach the Word of God. Most of her adult life included teaching Bible classes at church. The Johnsons have attended the Midfield (AL) Church of Christ for many years, where her husband has also served as an elder for many years. Her favorite class to teach was a class of young girls at Midfield which she conducted for several years. In the summer the girls would come to the Johnson home where she would teach them Bible, cooking, sewing, crocheting, and many other things women need to know to be good wives and mothers. Sister Johnson was an accomplished seamstress who made many wedding dresses and bridesmaid gowns and never charged for them beyond the cost of materials. She exalted the importance of the home and of the woman’s role in the home as God ordained it. She exalted this great truth both in practice and in teaching.
The Johnson home was always open for guests and visitors, and sister Johnson especially loved to cook, and was a master at it. The Johnsons have extended their hospitality to many Christians through the years. Preachers have stayed in their home on many occasions while holding gospel meetings for the church at Midfield. She has washed and ironed their clothes, polished their shoes, and even cut the hair of some!
Sister Johnson was always a hard worker and one who put the Lord first in all of her work. She exemplified the quality commended by Jesus when he said, “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Lk. 10:41-42). All the godly characteristics of the virtuous woman found in Proverbs 31 could be seen in the life of sister Johnson. She was an ideal helper to her husband, and he safely trusted in her. She worked “willingly with her hands” and was diligent to supply every need of her household. “She stretcheth out her hand to the poor” and did not hesitate to share what she had with anyone who needed it. “Strength and honor are her clothing . . . and in her tongue is the law of kindness.” Her children “call her blessed” and her husband “praiseth her.” She will be remembered and praised as “a woman that feareth the Lord.”
Even when sister Johnson became very ill, she did not fear death but looked forward to it. In spite of all of her suffering, she only missed worship the last three Sundays of her life. Her worship to God on this earth was only a prelude to her worship of God in eternity. She embraced the exceeding great and precious promises of the gospel, fully believing that a better life awaited her beyond this world of sin and sorrow. Plans for her funeral service were made by herself long be-fore her death, including the songs, the pallbearers, and the other arrangements. No “sad” songs were selected but only songs such as “Hallelujah! What a Savior!” Singing was congregational. Brother Barney Keith, local preacher at Midfield, and brother Pete McKee, a former preacher at Midfield, spoke during the funeral service to a record crowd which had registered at the funeral. Brother Ed Owens, a long time member at Midfield, spoke at the graveside. Sister Johnson is buried in the Valhalla Cemetery at Bessemer near Birmingham to await the great resurrection day.
I must add this personal word. My family and I moved to Midfield to work with this good church in the summer of 1982 and stayed through the summer of 1984. Working with the Johnsons and the whole church there was a rich and rewarding experience in many ways. One of the highlights was being closely associated with the Johnsons, being in their home numerous times, eating at their table, and learning from them. They have been unusually dedicated people to the Lord, the kind who truly help others to reach heaven. Brother Jay F. Johnson (4905 Avenue R, Birmingham, AL 35208-5106) still lives in Birmingham and continues to work and worship with the Midfield Church of Christ there.
Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 13, p. 12-13
July 7, 1994