December 15, 1929 - June 5, 2020
Helen Sheila Wishart McGhee Johnson died peacefully on Friday afternoon, June 5th, 2020, at Addington Place in Northville, Michigan. She was 90. Sheila was born on December 15th, 1929, in Cardenden, Scotland, the only child of James and Christian (Livingstone) McGhee. The young family emigrated to America when Sheila was just six weeks old, settling near family on the east side of Detroit. She grew up there with aunts and uncles and cousins close by. The family found a home at Birkett Baptist church where she began serving as church pianist and accompanist when she was just thirteen years old. She had complained to her dad that when eligible young men visited in church, all the other girls got to meet them first since she was delayed playing the service postlude. So, one Sunday dad was proactive and invited the latest visitor home for Sunday dinner before the other girls could pounce. As luck would have it, Paul Johnson’s uncle just happened to be the church choir director. It wasn’t long before Paul was singing bass and seeing Sheila twice a week. They were married on May 5th, 1951, fittingly at Birkett Baptist Church, but only after Paul had graduated from college. No more had they set up housekeeping than he was drafted back into the service, sending Sheila home to live with her parents while he served with the Army in Korea for two years. Upon his return, he got a job, they bought a house, and they began a family, and all within the first year. Daughter Cheryl was born in 1955 and son Jim in 1958. Sheila’s dad died then in middle age, just months before he could have met his namesake grandson. So it was that grandma Christian became an even closer part of the family. Having settled in Redford Township, the family became part of planting the Dearborn Covenant Church, with Sheila taking her accustomed place at the piano and organ, and Paul in the bass section of the church choir. She continued there as organist, a faithful servant of the church for the next 42 years. Sheila had also found time to work at Parke Davis early on, and then as Cheryl and Jim grew up, at L.J. Griffin Funeral Home, first simply as organist, and then later as a more and more important part of the office staff as well. Sheila and Paul made a dynamic pairing. While neither usually served as the life of the party, they were often its host and hostess, exercising wonderful gifts of hospitality and graciousness. They had a knack for cultivating friendships, something they exercised all throughout their lives. Together they were loyal to the generations before, continuing friendships with aging friends of their parents from Birkett long after all had moved away. They were generous with their time and abilities, enjoying involvements in the Swedish Club and ARPI Swedish Chorus, Paul among the basses with Sheila as always at the piano. Her ability to play almost anything, with or without music and in any available key, and with sensitivity and true musicality, made her everyone’s preferred accompanist. “Nobody can play it like Sheila.” With Cheryl and Jim raised and starting families of their own, Paul and Sheila enjoyed expanding their horizons with international travel, over the years visiting China and Southeast Asia, Sweden, Mexico, and Scotland of course, cruising aboard the luxurious QE II and in the supersonic Concorde. Their favorite destination however was any place that included their grandkids, Eric, Linnea, Peter, Luke, and Caleb. They were doting grandparents with the energy, always taking the time, and ever ready to make the trip to be at their games and graduations. Luke and Emma were married the day after Sheila and Paul’s sixty-sixth anniversary. In retirement they built a condo on Lake Michigan not far from Portage Lake Covenant Bible Camp. That getaway became the center of many family holidays with everyone together and remains the center of many memories to this day, part of the legacy of love and faith and music which are gifts both Sheila and Paul have bequeathed to their grateful family. Sheila had suffered over the past ten years from various health conditions that made mobility and speech increasingly difficult and brought about a growing confusion as well. Paul cared for her faithfully until his own health issues became evident and help had to be brought in. They moved as their needs required with Sheila settling at Addington Place just before Paul’s passing. Jim and Norma have been constant companions throughout, with Cheryl traveling in from out-of-state every three weeks or so, and Tom and all five of the grandkids present as often as possible and for most holidays and special celebrations. During the recent COVID restrictions, Sheila enjoyed seeing her loved ones on both Facetime and Zoom, with “patio visits” for two at a time in the courtyard having been allowed too in just the last week. She passed gently, with Cheryl and Jim by her bedside and the rest of the family keeping vigil outside in the shade of a tree, in keeping with ongoing precautions to protect other residents. Sheila was preceded in death by her dad James McGhee in 1957, her mom Christian McGhee in 1997, her loving husband Paul Johnson in 2018. She is survived by children Cheryl (Rev. Thomas) Ek, and James (Norma) Johnson; by grandchildren Rev. Eric Ek, Rev. Linnea Ek, Peter Ek, Luke (Emma) Johnson, and Caleb Johnson; and by one great-granddaughter, Ada Johnson. A private family graveside service will be planned in the near future with other arrangements pending due to COVID concerns. Update: Livestreaming will not be available for the “Service of Music and Worship to Honor the Life and Memory of Sheila Johnson” this Saturday, June 5. However, the service will be recorded and available for viewing next week. When the access information becomes available it will be forwarded via this app. We look forward to seeing those of you who plan to attend the “Service of Music and Worship to Honor the Life and Memory of Sheila Johnson” this Saturday, June 5, 10:00am at Faith Covenant Church, Farmington Hills. Ushers will be available to assist with seating—for those fully vaccinated (2 weeks after the last injection) masks will not be required, you may sit with your family group and be distanced by 3 feet. For those not vaccinated, masks are required and will be seated accordingly, distanced by 6 feet. There will be no visitation prior to the service. Instead you are invited to attend a 30 minute extended prelude of music, piano and organ (beginning at 9:30 a.m), in tribute to Mom’s many years as a church musician. A time of greeting and safe-distanced visiting will take place following the service. Memorials may be directed to Angela Hospice, 14100 Newburgh Road, Livonia, Michigan 48154-5010 or to Portage Lake Covenant Bible Camp, 4158 Camp Delight Road, Onekama, Michigan 49675. To share a memory, please use the share a memory tab on this web page. A link is being added per the request of the family: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1t-55Ql8qYdJXfmPWEm9BLxRof7av9VHG/view?usp=sharing.
Helen Sheila Wishart McGhee Johnson died peacefully on Friday afternoon, June 5th, 2020, at Addington Place in Northville, Michigan. She was 90. Sheila was born on December 15th, 1929, in Cardenden, Scotland, the only child of James and Christian... View Obituary & Service Information
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