Volunteer – Debra Jean Johnson

Volunteer – Debra Jean Johnson


My name is Debra Jean Johnson.  I am retired from all my occupations except helping take care of our 4 children 2 grandchildren and our 4 dogs. I am 63 years young. I grew up as an Army Brat traveling around the US in North Carolina, Illinois and Alabama and also traveled to Germany and England when I was small with my Dad and Mom and 2 siblings. I have been living in Arlington and Fairfax County for most of my life.

I and my twin brother, Carroll Ray, were born on August 24, 1954 at Ft. Bragg N.C.  My sister, Suzie, was also born in 1957 at Ft. Bragg on another tour of duty. They both live in Northern Virginia. I am 20-minutes older than my twin brother and 3 years older than my sister.  My sister is married to Mike and they have one child Corey.

My Dad was an Army Engineer and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel from the Pentagon and Mom was a homemaker. Both of my parents are deceased now. My dad died in 1989 at the age of 59.  My Mom passed in January just shy of her 85th birthday. I was able to help take good care of her as she was leaving us, which was a blessing. I can imagine her dancing the Polka in Heaven with my Dad now. That makes me happy.

I graduated from Thomas Jefferson H.S. in 1972 and married my 1st husband, Dietmar (A German) for 3 years right out of H.S. and we had one son from that marriage, Dietmar Jr. is now 45 years old and has 2 young daughters: Sierra 14 and Cheyanne 9-years old and they live in Bristow, VA. They are my wonderful Red haired, freckled and smart grandchildren. I love to watch them grow up and giving them presents.

I married again for 19 years to Eddie White; he died of the many complications due to Alzheimer disease.  He was a wonderful man and told me everything will be alright and I believed him and everything was great. Eddie owned a Limousine Company called White’s Limousine Company during the 1990s. We both chauffeured many important and well-known people around the metro area. Some of our clients were from the Today Show, Meet the Press and The Rand Corporation; I met some really nice people for example: Helen Hayes, Charleton Heston, John Denver, and other guests of the Today show. I also chauffeured the people who worked for NBC back then and many Congresspersons and Senators. It was a fun occupation. We also chauffeured people for weddings, funerals, proms and other special events.

I worked for Nordstrom at Pentagon City in sales and as a concierge and became one of their Customer Service All-Stars.  I also worked at The Washington Hospital Center as a concierge and gave tours of the hospital, visited the patients and worked in their small hotel inside the hospital as a concierge and reservationist. In addition, I worked for the Rand Corporation as an administrative assistant and travel reservationist for the people who worked there.

I am currently happily married to Ralph Johnson. We were married in September 2000. Before our marriage Ralph went to Haiti in March 2000 and the Haitian people changed his life forever and when he returned he asked me to marry him. Before our marriage, he had volunteered to help take care of my second husband when he read about our need in the church bulletin. Ralph and Meg Wholey gave me a much needed respite time. After Eddie died, Ralph went to Haiti and came back and said “Will You Marry ME”. I was shocked but happy and said YES. We adopted 3 children from Guatemala when they were babies. They are all teenagers now:  Maria, 17, Tony, 17 and Jose’ 14. They all keep us young and happy. We learn new things every day from them and with them. They are very happy teenagers; on their phones, playing computer games and helping taking care of their dogs.

My husband Ralph and I  started the adoption process after we were married in 2000 and decided that we would have 2 children at first and then went back to adopt Jose’ later when we discovered how much fun we were having with Maria at 8 months old and Tony at 5 months old. Jose’ was really a wonderful addition at 18 months of age.  Maria and Tony are going to Annandale HS as seniors this coming fall and Jose’ will join them there in his freshman year.

We also rescued 4 rescue dogs recently.  We have a Cocker Spaniel, Hiker, a Border collie, Gabbi, and 2 Pomeranian litter mates Peaches and Pepper.  They are very loving and nice to each other too.

Our children, grandchildren and dogs keep us very busy.

We are active in our beloved church, Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church in South Arlington, VA. I love to sing and am currently in the Folk/contemporary choir at the 11:15 AM Mass. I cantor and am a communion minister at Mass. I love singing for our Lord and for his People.

I enjoy learning the guitar and singing along, playing cards, Hand and Foot, with our friends, learning 2 languages at once, Spanish and German, on the app Duolingo.com and taking photos of our family and dogs, and the many events that we attend at church.

We help at church with Matthew 25, which is our free thrift shop which serves over 400 people each week, shop for sandwich food for the 50 day laborers who wait for work in Shirlington, are part of the Water Into Wine  ministry community who serve those who are about to be married by sharing our story of marriage and sharing other important information about marriage and have established the Building Forever Families Ministry at our church that advocates for those children who are in foster care, waiting to be adopted and also those who are orphaned.  We collect items for “Comfort Cases” for Foster children going from home to home until they settle with their forever family. Some of the teens will age out of the foster programs without finding their forever home and will need help with college and settling into a new way of life for themselves. We want to help us much as possible. If you ever have anything to give to these foster children, please let me know.

My husband Ralph and I are on the Salvation Army Board, who advocate and help 100 men in the ARC program to help them with getting off drugs and alcohol. We have been on the board for over 4 years now. We really appreciate what the Salvation Army does for these individuals.

I enjoy watching HGTV home shows with my husband, reading about people, playing with our dogs, singing Broadway tunes, learning more chords on my guitar, going to SoJo Folk group sing a-longs in the Arlington area through meetup.com and my choir.

I advocate for people who have Alzheimer disease, because my 2nd husband, Eddie suffered from the disease and I was his sole caregiver until he died.  I definitely recommend the book the 36 hour Day.

I was asked to be on the Merica House Board by my choir friends, Cathy, Dee and Mo. I am so happy I have joined the board and can help in some ways.  I believe I have the gift of compassion, the gift of speaking with people easily, the gift of voice because I love to sing, and the gift of sharing and giving. I thank the Lord for all these gifts that I can share.  Please help Merica House when you can. They need you.  Love and Peace, Debra