SaddleBrooke Spotlight: Barbara Williams Johnson

Bob, Barbara and their grandsons, Justin and Nate, at the IMA Air and Space Museum

Bob, Barbara and their grandsons, Justin and Nate, at the IMA Air and Space Museum

Mary Jo Bellner Swartzberg

Unfailingly, rain or shine, Barbara Johnson jogs every day along Ridgeview Boulevard. This is her 42 miles a week ritual.

Barbara has been jogging all of her adult life. Everyone recognizes Barbara here – the jogger of Ridgeview! As it turns out, her jogging habit would eventually save her life.

Barbara was born in Aberdeen, Maryland. Her parents worked for the Department of Defense in Aberdeen. Aberdeen is home to the U.S. Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG). More than 7,500 civilians and 5,000 military personnel work at APG. One-third of Barbara’s classmates were children of military personnel.

During her high school years and her early adult years she worked or volunteered in military settings, including the local naval hospital and for the State Department – the Africa Bureau – where she had security clearance. While at the State Department Barbara was privileged to hear speakers, such as the President of National Organization for Women. She also attended many presentations in the Rose Garden at the White House.

It was during high school that Barbara discovered French. She owes this interest to her French teacher who was born with polio and had overcome enormous adversity. Her teacher would have a profound impact on Barbara’s life.

Fluent in French, Barbara taught it for 34 years. She has been on four trips to France; the most meaningful trip was with her mother who could not believe that she was seeing the Eiffel Tower.

Many years later Barbara’s life took an unexpected turn. After participating in a marathon with her husband, she suddenly blacked out and fell backwards on her back, hitting her head on concrete. She stopped breathing and had no pulse. It was a serious injury that left her deaf in one ear and with eyesight and balance issues. Barbara had to learn how to walk again and how to regain her balance. She has prisms in her glasses to help control vision problems.

Still, she beat the odds after her accident. One doctor said that he usually sees patients after her type of accident either in a vegetative state or deceased.

Barbara had a multitude of doctors at Johns Hopkins Medical Center. She would eventually be diagnosed with neurocardiogenic syncope, which is a miscommunication between the heart, the blood vessels in the lower extremities and the brain.

However, as it turned out, her jogging habit meant a strong, healthy heart, which helped her to recover.

Eventually, it was determined that Barbara needed a pacemaker; she is on her second pacemaker now.

Barbara does not let her condition get in the way of her life. She is unimaginably busy – making jewelry, golfing, teaching Sunday school and, of course, jogging. She and her husband belong to the Corvette Brooke Club – she is the secretary. And, she is the past president of the Saddle Lady 9ers. Her secret obsession is watching sports on television and, at parties, she can be found talking about sports rather than watching them.

A quote from Barbara: We have no control over bad things that happen to us, but we have complete control over how we choose to deal with them!

Barbara Williams Johnson – what an inspiration!