Rodney E. Johnson died at his Middlefield home Feb. 14, 2014.
He was born Nov. 6, 1928, in Fulton, N.Y., the eldest of two sons of Erwin R. Johnson and Kittie Ferguson Johnson.
Mr. Johnson graduated from Fulton High School in 1947 before going on to graduate from State University College at Oswego, and later, doing graduate work at Oswego, Oneonta, Saint Rose, Albany and Boston University.
After Rod married his high school sweetheart, Elizabeth Jeanne Walker, they moved to the old Sutton Farmhouse at Sutton’s Corners in Oswego County.
They restored the house in the 1950s, naming it Mulberry Hill. For a short time, he was curator of Fort Ontario and they lived in the former lighthouse keeper’s cottage across from the fort.
In 1963, they relocated to the hamlet of Middlefield, near Cooperstown. The couple worked to preserve and restore several early Middlefield buildings, most importantly, their 18th century home, the Joshua Pinney Tavern, well-known for its beautiful wall murals featured in several authoritative books on this topic.
During the span of his 20-year teaching career he taught history, English and special education. He is fondly remembered by many former students who were inspired by his high standards.
He was ordained in the United Methodist Church in 1969. For 37 years, he pastored United Methodist churches, including those in McDonough, Preston, Willet, West Davenport, Davenport, Emmons and Cooperstown Junction. For several years, he held vespers for the scouts at Crumhorn Mountain Boy Scout Camp.
In 1981, following their passion for preservation, the Johnsons opened Leatherstocking Realty, which specialized in the pairing of historic houses with enthusiastic preservationists.
Mr. Johnson was a past president of Otsego-Delaware Board of Realtors, twice served as chair for the Otsego-Delaware Multiple Listing service, and was once Director of the Real Estate Board as well.
As President of the Town of Middlefield Historical Association for five years, he was instrumental in securing the Middlefield District Number One Schoolhouse to use as the organization’s headquarters.
In keeping with his interests in preservation, Rod helped create the Middlefield Zoning Board of Appeals, resulting in the current zoning laws that have helped preserve the heritage of the community at large.
He was a Master Mason and member of Otsego Lodge No. 138, Free & Accepted Masons. It should be noted that the third floor of the Pinney Tavern was well documented as an early meeting hall for the Masonic Brothers, known as The Widow’s Son Lodge No. 391, chartered in 1824.
The Johnsons, along with a small group of residents, worked tirelessly to have the hamlet of Middlefield designated an Historic District on the State and National Registries; they were successful in this endeavor in the mid 1980s.
For many years, people enjoyed visiting with Rod and Jeanne at their antique store, The Village Peddler, where they shared their love of antiques and their vast knowledge of local history with store visitors.
This early building, at the crossroads of Middlefield, had been slated for demolition before Rod and Jeanne took on the mammoth restoration project to preserve the Middlefield landmark as it stands today.
Rod was predeceased by a son, Kevin Johnson, his brother, Roy Johnson, and his beloved wife, Elizabeth Jeanne.
Surviving are his daughter, Karen Rury (Edward) and their children, Sarah, Jessica (Jason) and Jonathan (Maura); his daughter, Kittie Johnson (Mr. Blair Campbell); his son Mark Johnson (Gina) and children Matthew Carr (Heather), Benjamin and Samuel; his son, Seth Johnson (Doreen) and their children, Jessica, Scott (Amanda) and Weston.
He is survived by a great-granddaughter, Cameran Flint and five great-grandsons, Elliot and Aidan Rury ; Nathan Rury ; and Gabriel and Logan Johnson.
Rod was a person who possessed many fine qualities. He was loved dearly by his family and friends. He was versatile and talented, whether building stone walls, tending his honey bees or playing checkers with his grandson … all the time running on High Octane Coffee!
Contributions may be made to The Middlefield First Responders in recognition of the compassionate help Rod and his family received over the past several years.
Donations may be mailed in care of Doug Roberts, 208 County Highway 43, Schenevus, NY 12155.
Rod’s memorial service will be held this spring at the United Methodist Church at Cooperstown Junction.
Arrangements are with the Connell, Dow & Deysenroth Funeral Home in Cooperstown.