Meet ethel johnson

Ethel has now been a resident at Allen Manor for over four years, and she has vivid memories of growing up on a large farm in rural Mississippi.  Born in 1930 in Rolling Fork, Ethel lived with her grandparents and extended family members in an old, large farmhouse near the railroad tracks in Elizabeth, MS.  They bought the farmhouse on four acres of property and rented other land as a sharecroppers. Ethel and her mom lived not only with her grandparents but also her great grandmother, one uncle, three aunts, and several cousins.  They grew and canned all the vegetables and fruits they needed and had a smokehouse to process the chickens and hogs that were slaughtered.


Ethel did not enjoy many aspects of farm life, especially the activities associated with picking and processing cotton.  She does have better recollections of going to elementary school in the church house a half-mile away, where Miss Annie was her teacher.  She also went to high school in Leland, MS, making the one-mile walk until she was nearly 17 years old. During these early years, Ethel’s mom and uncle worked in a local factory, her mom as a welder.  Her clearest and fondest memory is of placing her faith in Jesus at Good Hope Baptist Church when she was 14 years old.



After getting married at 17 years of age, Ethel made a number of moves in a short amount of time.  In 1950, she eventually moved into her long-term home on Prospect SE and observed that race relations in Grand Rapids were harder than in MS.  She adopted her son when he was 18 months old, and she remains concerned about him all these years later. He has had a lifelong struggle to remain emotionally healthy and sustain meaningful relationships.


Ethel has also experienced the pain of two divorces, yet she remains committed to living by God’s word.  She finds much encouragement through her spiritual sisters and brothers at Messiah Baptist Church. From her perspective, the residents and people of Allen Manor have been really nice, and she desires to reflect God’s way of “loving each other” in all her interactions.  While she would like to be a bit more active, Ethel is content with her situation and confident in the God she serves.