School 31

Hilda Catherine Johnson

August 14, 1930 ~ December 31, 2021 (age 91)

Obituary Image

Obituary

Hilda Johnson: Immigrant, grandmother, daycare provider shaped lives of generations of Boston kids

Hilda Catherine Johnson, 91, who brought her children to the U.S. in search of the American Dream and went on to become a beloved fixture in Boston’s Black community entered the loving arms of her savior on Dec. 31, 2021. 

Known affectionately as “auntie” and “grandma” by family and friends, she died at home in Stoneham, MA, having finally succumbed to the effects of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, and congestive heart failure, both progressive conditions. She was born August 14, 1930, on the island of Trinidad in the West Indies, and worked two to three jobs at a time as a maid at Boston’s Four Seasons Hotel, as a nurse's aid, and finally operating her own daycare business.  

As a child growing up in Trinidad, Hilda was especially close to her sisters and brother, and learned the lessons of hard work and dedication to family by watching her mother, Princess Dick. At a young age the children strove to follow their mother’s example by doing various chores and even raising a piglet into a large, healthy adult pig. She would often note that while they did not have much, their love and support for each other made them rich in spirit.

She met and married Vernon O. Johnson, and together they had five children. Vernon came to America to work as a tradesman, and in 1972, nearly five years later, Hilda and the children were finally able to join him. The family settled into an apartment in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood. When a mysterious fire severely damaged the building, Hilda and Vernon acted quickly to find a new home for their children. They began renting a worn house at 51 Quincy Street big enough for each child to have their own room - promising the owner they would make needed repairs on their own. Eventually they saved enough to buy it. For the next four decades, it would stand as a place for their children, grandchildren, and several foster children.

In the late 1990s, Hilda earned a state license to provide family childcare services, and built an addition onto the house that would serve as Hilda Johnson’s Family Daycare. Over the next several years, she would provide love and nurturing care to dozens of children from Dorchester and Roxbury. They would affectionately call her “grandma”. It was common to see large, food-filled gatherings held at the house during Boston’s annual Carnival Festival, and during the holidays.

After Vernon’s death on December 23, 2015, Hilda waged a successful battle against cancer, with help from the surgeons at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. In 2016, she left her beloved Quincy Street, living briefly in an apartment in the Reading area before eventually coming to live with one of her children in Stoneham. 

In her final years, while she was unable to travel far, she would keep tabs on her now sprawling family by phone and on Zoom, whether they were in Boston, New York, Florida, England or back in Trinidad. She died peacefully in her sleep, surrounded by her loved ones. Hilda was preceded in death by her husband Vernon and her daughter Jennifer, and is survived by her daughter Judy Landers, her sons Jefferson, Jeffrey and Jason, and dozens of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She is also survived by her loving sisters Muriel St. Rose, Cynthia Grant, and Judy James.  

A wake will be held from 5 pm to 8 pm on Friday, January 14 at Davis Funeral Home, 654 Cummins Hwy, Mattapan. The visitation and memorial service will be held on Saturday, January 15 starting at 10 am at Davis Funeral Home. A graveside service will follow Saturday’s memorial service. Donations in Hilda’s name can be made to the American Cancer Society or to the United Negro College Fund. 

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Hilda Catherine Johnson, please visit our floral store.


Services

Visitation
Friday
January 14, 2022

5:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Davis Funeral Home
654 CUMMINS HWY
MATTAPAN, Massachusetts 02126-3242

Visitation
Saturday
January 15, 2022

10:00 AM to 11:00 AM
Davis Funeral Home
654 CUMMINS HWY
MATTAPAN, Massachusetts 02126-3242

Celebration of Life
Saturday
January 15, 2022

11:00 AM
Davis Funeral Home
654 CUMMINS HWY
MATTAPAN, Massachusetts 02126-3242

Video is available for this event


Interment
Saturday
January 15, 2022

1:00 PM
Forest Hills Cemetery 95 Forest Hills Av

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