Robert Johnson was born on April 21, 1952 in Tela, a town on the Carribean coast of Honduras, to Agnes Johnson. When his mother emigrated to the United States to prepare a new life for him and his beloved older sister, Mayfern White, he was entrusted to the care of a family friend by the name of Ms. Othie James, a woman who he loved. Life for Robert or “Beto” was not easy in Honduras.
Robert, whose first language was Spanish, told stories of practicing his English con las estrellas, with the stars, in the fields at night while growing up in La Ceiba. These were the conversation partners he chose because he knew that someday he would live in the U.S. with his mother. Even as a child ambition was the blood that ran through his veins. Someday finally came when he was fifteen years old and he boarded a train with a one-way ticket headed to Boston, MA where he would see his mom for the first time since infancy. Once he made it safely to his destination he recognized his mother not from any pictures he had seen, but because he “saw his own face in his mother’s,” and knew in his heart that it was her.
It was in the States, while in middle school, that Robert acquired the nickname “Rocko.” One day in gym class when his peers were tossing around the ball, instead of catching it and throwing it back with his hands, Robert, who at the time was “fresh off the boat,” headbutted the ball back displaying his fútbol acumen. A friend who was unfamiliar with the move, called him Rock Head and soon after Rock Head was affectionately shortened to “Rocko.”
Rocko attended Brighton High School and upon graduating in 1970, he chose to serve his country by joining the United States Coast Guard. He went on to study engineering at Northeastern University and received his Bachelor of Engineering Technology in 1982. Rocko was a brilliant man, and over the years he worked for many prestigious companies as an electrical engineer including but not limited to Polaroid, Raytheon, Cisco, Harvard University, and before his retirement, the technology consulting firm BigR.io.
To know Rocko was to know his unwavering love of music, passion for playing dominoes, and affinity for Boston sports teams. He was also fond of shooting pool, watching Looney Tunes, identifying birds, connecting with other Honduranians in Franklin Field, wrestling with big existential questions with his daughters, and returning to the ocean time and time again to clear his mind. In retirement, Rocko enjoyed getting up early in the morning to “do his exercises” and meditate on the front porch before having a bowl of oatmeal, rereading the Children of the Lion books, reconnecting with family and friends, and looking out at his wife’s beautiful garden.
Rocko’s story will now live on through his wife Margaret Squires-Johnson; his children Craig Parker, Tiesha Stewart, Ashley and Jessica Johnson, and Dana Harris; his siblings Daphne Tookes-McElrath, Jose “Freddy” Tookes, Debra Tookes-Smith, and Dianne Lackiram; and a host of other cherished family members and friends. Vaya con Dios, Rocko. Vaya con Dios.
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