You are here

Death in our diocesan family: Anne Cooke Wilson-Johnson

Votive candles

With sadness we share the news of the death of Anne Cooke Wilson-Johnson, 94, on October 16, 2020. She was the mother of the Rev. Canon Dr. Sandye A. Wilson.

Anne was the fourth of six living children born to Thomas Henry Cooke, Sr. and Julia Melinda Cooke of Bishopville, SC on June 1, 1926. After graduation from Mather Academy in Camden, SC, she attended Hampton (Institute) University. When the University of Maryland refused to admit her because of her race, she completed Masters degrees from Cornell University and Johns Hopkins University, courtesy of the State of Maryland.

Her career as a professional educator began with work as a student teacher in the Second Ward in Charlotte, NC. Her first job was at Maryland State College (now The University of Maryland, Eastern Shore) in Princess Anne, MD, where she met and married her first husband, Evangylee Baldwin, MD, PhD and a member of the faculty. Their marriage ended in divorce.

She was a lifelong learner and educator who, after Maryland State College, moved back to Baltimore where she met and married the next great love of her life, William Llewellyn Wilson, Jr., built and enjoyed businesses and a great family life until his illness and untimely death at age 42.

She taught home economics, nutrition, crafts, survival skills and sex education in Baltimore City schools including #181, #91, Clifton Park High School, Douglass High School (department head) and Walbrook High School (department head), where she retired in 1985. During those 32 years of teaching, she enjoyed working each summer on curriculum design with her good friend, Dr. Virginia (Roeder) Wenger Cobb.

Her deep curiosity about life fed an interest in a panoply of topics. She and Vera Hall, as entrepreneurs, started their business VeraAnne Fashions and created everything from complex beautiful dresses for brides and wedding parties to fashions for U.S. Senator Barbara Mukulski and Sarah Eastman, wife of the Bishop of Maryland. Their sewing space became a gathering place for a community of women who enjoyed fellowship and fashion. It was a place in which young people were welcome and able to develop skills in sewing, crafts, relationships and life.

Her love of exploring new places took her to Fort Worth, TX, where she learned the American Airlines Sabre computer language. Then, back in Baltimore, she joined Roland Park Travel along with her college roommate, Charlotte Shockley Little. She enjoyed planning individual trips for people to explore anywhere their hearts desired and had some clients who enjoyed regular trips around the world. She specialized in planning group trips, cruises, and enjoyed learning about the places to which she sent others by traveling to them herself, often in the company of her youngest daughter.

A lifelong member of The Church of The Holy Trinity, she served as president of the Dorcas Guild, the group that made the vestments and paraments in the church. Ironically, after she finished sewing the new funeral pall for the church her husband, William Llewelyn Wilson, Jr. was the first person to use it upon his death in December 1970. She was appointed by the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Edmund Lee Browning, to his Blue Ribbon Task Force on Sex Education and Human Sexuality, and she was one of the authors of the publication “Sexuality, A Divine Gift” which was used across the church. She was the first Black member of the Board of Trustees of St. Paul’s School for Girls and a proud life member of The Union of Black Episcopalians and the NAACP.

In 1995, 50 years after they first met and dated, she married the love of her life and college sweetheart Wendell Lucian Johnson, and they enjoyed traveling together until his illness made that impossible.

Family meant everything to her and she invested herself in the lives and dreams of her children, stepchildren, nieces, nephews, godchildren and friends.

She was a tough but fair and loving mother who demanded excellence, taught her children to write and encouraged them to become happy resourceful citizens, committed to giving back to others. She set an example of the rewards and challenges of hard work, optimism and hope. She gave them roots to be grounded in Christ and wings to fly off free to adventures in places unknown. Always supportive and incredibly patient, she taught countless numbers of people to do needlepoint, weave, sew, knit, crochet, cook and entertain. Children loved her and understood that she saw the best in them.

Though she was deaf and legally blind in years past, she was incredibly brave and adjusted the size of letters on her kindle and iPad to allow herself to read an engaging book each week. She was engaged with politics and the news of the nation and the world. She was a Jesse Jackson delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado. Her curiosity was infectious, and all of her children have spent time both as educators and journalists.

She is survived by her brother, Wilbur Cooke (Doris), her children, the Rev. Canon Dr. Sandye A. Wilson, C. Anthony Wilson (Sheon Ladson), and Deirdre Wilson-Redmond (Michael); her grandchildren, Theodore Matthews, Julian Matthews and Ryan Sierra Wilson; her stepchildren, Wendell L. Johnson, Jr. (Dee), Virginia Harrell (Thee), Jeffrey Johnson and Brian Johnson (Karen); step-grandchildren: Tamika, Morgan, Nicci, Brittany, Jenelle, Boomer and Jamie; her dear friend and caregiver, Connie Chew; her godchildren Marietta English and India Artis, and a host of relatives and friends. Her parents, siblings and husbands pre-deceased her.

Anne gave her body to science. A service will be held when the Episcopal churches reopen in Baltimore.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Anne Wilson Johnson Scholarship Fund at The Church of The Holy Trinity, c/o 4125 West Forest Park Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21207.

Condolences may be sent to the Rev. Canon Dr. Sandye A. Wilson at 4125 West Forest Park Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21207 or canonsandyeawilson@gmail.com.

Lord, for your faithful people life is changed, not ended. When the body of our earthly dwelling lies in death, we gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven. Lord, grant eternal rest, forever in the radiance of your light. Amen.