Franklin Countys First News

Judith Kennedy Johnson (1916-2018)

Judith Kennedy Johnson

FARMINGTON - Judith Kennedy Johnson, 101, of New Vineyard, died Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018 at Orchard Park Rehabilitation and Living Center.

Judith had an artist's soul and expressed that in all aspects of her life. She was born in Chicago, Illinois, Dec. 2, 1916 to Crystal (Conover), who was the Children's Arts Editor for the Chicago Tribune in the early 1920s, and Theodore E. Kennedy. At age 8, Judith moved to Montreal, Canada, where her stepfather Harold G. Files was head of the English Department at McGill University. Judith received her B.A. from McGill in 1938, after which she completed a year of journalism school at Columbia University in New York City, and then went on to earn an M.A. and a Ph.D. in English Literature at Brown University in Rhode Island. It was there she met her husband, Ernest Parker Johnson, Jr., and they were married June 8, 1942.

In 1956 Judith, Parker, and their two children, Stephen and Rebecca, moved to Oakland, Maine, where Judith started a family farm, which she had been dreaming of doing since childhood. Every year the family and all the animals packed up and spent the summer in New Vineyard, which was Judith's favorite place in the world, and where Parker and Judith eventually lived full time in retirement. Judith was an extremely skilled gardener with an encyclopedic knowledge of plants and their Latin names. And in 1971 she was a founding member of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association.

Judith's artistry was expressed most prolifically in her production, including hand-spinning, hand-dyeing, and original pattern creation, of countless hand-knitted designs with wool from her own sheep, and in her study and practice of drawing and watercolor painting of the landscapes surrounding her New Vineyard homestead. Judith was a founding member of UpCountry Artists in 1986, a group devoted to promoting the arts in Franklin County, Maine. She also had a collection of music from all over the world which she enjoyed sharing with her friends and family. She especially loved all kinds of jazz, enjoyed dancing, and played the mandolin.

Judith was a dedicated Democrat throughout her life, working for and supporting causes and candidates, particularly on the local level and served as an Oakland Selectman during the 1960s. Judith had a tirelessly curious mind and spent many hours reading, both aloud to her family and on her own. In 1992 she was a founding and influential benefactor for the New Vineyard Public Library, which has become an important community and literacy center in the town of New Vineyard, Maine.

Judith's passing was preceded by that of her husband, Ernest Parker Johnson, Jr. (1986), and her son, Stephen Johnson (1991). She is survived by her daughter, Rebecca Johnson Sweeney and her son-in-law, William John Sweeney, of New Vineyard and Florida; her grandsons, Sean Michael Sweeney, of Bangor, and Dale Glendon Sweeney, of Portland; and her granddaughter, Anna Johnson Sweeney of New York.

A graveside service and art retrospective will be held in New Vineyard in the summer of 2019. In lieu of flowers, etc., those who wish to, may make a donation on Judith's behalf by mail to the New Vineyard Public Library, P.O. Box 255, New Vineyard, ME 04956. Arrangements are cared for by Wiles Remembrance Center: Adams-McFarlane Chapel 137 Farmington Falls Road, Farmington ME.

A kind word may be left on her memory wall at

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15 Responses »

  1. Judith was a fine person and public servant.

  2. Judith enriched the lives of generations through her love for New Vineyard. Her dedication and generosity have been a driving force behind the creation of the New Vineyard Public Library.

  3. A force to be reckoned with!

  4. Dear Becky,
    So sorry for your loss. Much comfort and strength to you and your children.

  5. If you live in New Vineyard you can’t help but be grateful for her generosity to the town. Wish I had known her better. Thoughts and prayers to Becky and family.

  6. Becky, so sorry for the loss of your mother. You have a lot to be proud of in remembering her life.

  7. Thoughts and prayers going out to your whole family Becky and Bill. Ann & Alden Wattles

  8. My dad painted the picture of my mom.

  9. This is a beautiful tribute to a woman I've always admired. I love you guys!

  10. Becky I’m so sorry to hear of the passing of your mom. She sounds like a amazing woman. Love to you and your family ❤️

  11. Judith was a generous sharing gardener... my garden is filed with the antique rose bushes she gave me during the 30 years I knew and did not know her. She is especially with me every spring

  12. It was a pleasure to have known Judy. I always admired her strong spirit. I have her painting of the New Vineyard ball park on my wall , a reminder of many good times. Much love to you.

  13. Judy was an excellent artist and inspiration to those who knew her. She and Parker were outstanding citizens of New Vineyard. My sincerest condolences to the family.

  14. I'm sad to hear of her passing but impressed that she made it to 101. I remember milking those goats on some of the rare occasions when Parker and Judy left New Vineyard in the summer.