Karen Sudu, Gleaner Writer
JUAN DE BOLAS, St Catherine:EIGHTY-YEAR-OLD Herbert Johnson is one of the most loved senior citizens in the small rustic St Catherine community of Juan De Bolas.
His calm demeanour and pleasant personality have won him the admiration and respect of not only his colleagues, but also many of the young people in the community.
"Mr Johnson is a nice person, courteous, always tries to help people in the community and is very encouraging," 50-year-old Sylvan Chambers shared with The Gleaner.
To Everton Thomas, a 42-year-old farmer who grew up with his grandmother and aunt, Johnson was like a father.
"From I was born, I never hear anything bad about Mr Johnson. He is my godfather and he used to give me food, money and help to send me to school. He is a very nice man," said Thomas.
Godfather for many
In fact, Johnson has no biological children, however, over the years, he has been more than a godfather for many.
"He is my nine-year-old daughter's godfather, but he treats her like a father, helps to buy her books and so on," noted Chambers.
The soft-spoken senior grew up with six brothers and four sisters. However, most of his siblings migrated to England and the United States of America after they completed their primary education at the then Juan De Bolas Elementary School. But he chose to remain here and take care of his parents.
"It wasn't the will of the Lord for me to go, so I stayed on with my parents until they passed on. My mother in 1977, at the age of 72 and my father died in 1995, he was 98," he told The Gleaner.
While a student, the octogenarian harboured thoughts of become a shoemaker, but that dream was short lived.
"I was in a district name Camperdown learning shoe making and my eldest brother came and told me that one of my other brother gone to the (United) States on farm work, and that he would be going to England, so I came back down to Juan De Bolas and I never went back to finish learning the trade, but I could make my own shoes," he said proudly.
Like his parents, Johnson ventured into farming, cultivating a variety of crops, primarily sugar cane, which he sold to Worthy Park Estate.
Passionate about tilling the soil, Johnson was an active member of the Juan De Bolas branch of the Jamaica Agricultural Society.
In 1974, the humble deacon of Juan De Bolas New Testament Church of God tied the knot with Linda Brown who he met through church activities in Spanish Town.
"I didn't really marry him with the intention to stay up here so long," his wife said laughing. "I wanted to go back to Spanish Town or somewhere else, but after his mother died and his father was a bit down and he decided that he wouldn't leave him, I decided to stay and help him take care of him until he passed on," the Portlander explained.
Nowadays, Johnson is not able to farm on a large scale like when he was younger, but he still cultivates crops such as banana, plantain, sugar cane and coffee.
Thankful for life and the opportunity to make others happy, the easy going senior said his only wish is to see Jamaicans uniting, as they used to in days gone by.
"When we were growing up, people were so loving to each other, both the old and the young were loving and cooperative. Anything one doing, everyone would join together and help, but not so now. I wish those days would come back," he said, as he reaped coffee from his farm.