Allison Bean and Paul Johnson are pictured here at one of many Denny’s breakfasts following Sunday mass more than a decade ago.
My heart has been heavy this week as I learned of the passing of Paul Johnson, a person who has touched the lives of everyone who knew him but who touched my life in a personal way. The Miami Herald wrote a lovely obit on Paul but there was no way they could say it all. For me, Paul became a friend I met through Rotary and Lady Suzanna Tweed years ago. We sometimes attended events together and when I moved to Doral he introduced me to Our Lady of Guadalupe Church that was meeting in Eugenia B Thomas Elementary. I had been attending St. Louis Catholic Church where I raised my girls. Once we moved to Doral from Pinecrest, every Sunday I would drive across town to attend 7:30 a.m at St. Louis that had been my home for many years. One night after attending an charity event with Paul, he drove me to where the masses where held in Doral and suggested I change parishes. I took his advice. Paul sang with a rag tag bunch in choir and got me to join them. We never rehearsed and would decide on songs right before mass. It was such fun. When a real choir director was hired, we always joked about getting fired. Later, when an English choir was created, I was invited back and have been singing there ever since. I have Paul to thank for that.
After mass almost every Sunday for years, Paul would take my baby granddaughter Allison and I to breakfast at Denny’s. Sometimes we went with a group but most often just the three of us. He was such a special person filled with the love of God like no one I have ever know. Kids get that and my granddaughter adored him. After more than 15 years, she still remembers building houses at Denny’s with Sweet n Low packets, playing tic tac toe with Paul and having great conversations. Paul could relate to anyone. After taking a vow of poverty for years, I remember his wonder at buying his first house which was so endearing. He shared his wealth, his compassion and his talents with everyone. When he moved away from Doral, we sadly lost touch and his absence left a void for me and many of his friends in Doral.
While many remember Paul from his work with Camillus House and Catholic Cemeteries, I remember stories of individuals whose lives he changed that were not chronicled anywhere. There must be a special place in heaven for this man whose life was so devoted to God and human kind. I feel so very blessed to have known him and called him a friend. I am certain there are thousands who could say the same. He was so very special to us all and his legacy is marked by his impact on the lives he touched.
May God rest his soul.
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A graduate of the University of Florida with a major in Spanish, Burns has an extensive background in advertising, marketing and reciprocal trade, travel as well as non profit consulting and management. Active in many non profits, she received numerous awards across the community. Among her list of current responsibilities, Burns co-chairs two annual student recognition breakfasts for the Coral Gables Friends of Education; helps coordinate charity partners for the Westin Colonnade’s Annual Give Kids the World Breakfast; serves on the board of directors of Doral Business Council; is Parliamentarian and serves on the board of the GFWC Coral Gables Woman’s Club; serves the board of the Rotary Club of Coral Gables and is Publicity Chair; and is a member of the Jr. Orange Bowl Committee. Gloria is also an active member of the Music Ministry at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, where she sings in the choir. She can be reached at email@example.com