My beloved husband Zeno Martel Johnson III died at home on Sunday, August 20, 2017 after a long illness. He had so many roles in life. He was an Episcopal priest, a professor, a father, step father, grandfather, great grandfather, friend and loving spouse. His passions were books, classical music and people. He was open to new ideas and people from different backgrounds. His curiosity was ever present. When friends visited, the first question he would ask is, “What are you reading?” Or, when he met someone new, he would say, for example, “Tell me about your ring or where are you from?” And the conversations would begin. He was a native Phoenician and was born on December 11, 1928. He attended Arizona State University where he received his Bachelor of Arts and Masters of Arts in Education and a Ph.D. in Philosophy. He also received his degree in Sacred Theology at the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He served as a priest in Ohio, South Dakota and locally at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and All Saints Episcopal Church. He taught at Arizona State University and Mesa Community College. In his long teaching career he influenced over 10,000 students. He could talk on any subject from philosophy to motorcycles. Dr. Z, as his students called him, will be remembered by those who knew and loved him as an intellectual giant, a kind, generous, loving one-of-a-kind man. He is survived by his wife Mary Ellen, daughters Leigh Johnson Dear (Pat), Anne Johnson McIntyre (Steve), son Jay Johnson, stepsons Michael Hughes (Kevin), Gary Hughes (Barbara), grandson Mikael (CiCi), great grandchildren Sacia Marie and Koen Zeno Johnson and by all of the other family members and friends who loved him. Thank you Zeno. We all benefited from your love, kind heart and wisdom. Family and friends will gather to celebrate his life on Saturday, September 30th. Please make contributions in his name to Hospice of the Valley whose help and support was invaluable. Arrangements entrusted to Whitney & Murphy Funeral Home.
Mary Ellen: When Perk told me about Zeno my heart broke. I know you’re grieving and I’m crying with you. Zeno played such a big part in my formative years. He was literally a part of my family. I will be with you in spirit. Love and hugs, Vandi
(What I wrote on my Facebook posting on August 21, 2017)
“My mentor, my master, died last night at the age of 88. We had been friends for 35 years. The hospice staff thought he would not live past a week ago Sunday, but he held on tight, reminding us that life is precious. I am so grateful that I was able to say goodbye while he was conscious (although barely). He was the smartest and wisest person I knew. Young people would be well served to seek the guidance of a surrogate…as some advice is too difficult to hear from a parent. I love you Zeno. You will be with me forever.”
My deepest condolences to Mary Ellen and the extended Johnson family
Uncle Zeno, you came into my life when I was in my 20’s. From the moment we met, I knew you were an incredible man. Your intelligence was amazing but even more so was your willingness to immediately love and accept me. You were present at some of the most important events in my life.
The tenderness you showed mom when she was ill, will always be remembered. You always listened to people and then offered your viewpoint though never forcibly. Your wisdom was appreciated by those of all ages. Your laughter brightened us all.
You will be missed but never forgotten by those of us lucky enough to have you in our lives. Love and thanks to you always for everything.
Jack & Sandra Williams
My husband, Jack and I first met Zeno and MaryEllen when they became our neighbors in Prescott. That was over 20 years ago. We were fortunate to get to know them both. Zeno, dear friend, we will miss you You were always fun, interesting…… spending time with you was a delight.
Dear Mary Ellen and family
My heart is saddened when I heard about Mr. Zeno Johnson’s passing.. he is kind, gentle and a very intelligent, I love how he ask me how my family is doing and how he always shows his appreciation when he comes in the office… he will surely be missed..
Teresa and José Torres
We miss you dear friend, Zeno! Mary Ellen, we love and adore you for all the support you gave Zeno when his health
failed, but also all the fun you were when we had dinner with you! Zeno’s 75th birthday party was wonderful! There will never be another soul as wise and loving and gentle man like Zeno. Courage, I wish you now, Mary Ellen.
We love you!
I heard about you and your story from my friend and physician , Sandy Levitt. I knew of Zeno from my husband, Allen, a colleague of Zeno’s at MCC.
Allen, my husband of 57 years, died of a rare neurological disease just 4 months after Zeno.
A year+ later, the grief, pain and loneliness are still as raw and painful as a year ago. Although each person’s situation is different, I think I have an idea of what you’re going through. I tried to get in touch with you but to no avail. I just wanted to tell you that time doesn’t always heal. At least not yet, in my case. I was hoping we could talk and, perhaps, share how we are coping with such a terrible loss. My best wishes to you. Although I don’t know you, you are in my thoughts.
Just today did I find out about Zeno’s passing. He was my favorite teacher – ever. I was in his class at Mesa Community College in the early 70’s. I always admired his intelligence and open-mindedness. I am so sorry about your loss.
Mary Ellen, You have been on my ind lately and when I tried to find you online I found Zeno’s obituary. I am so sorry for your loss. Zeno was such a generous, brilliant, resilient, amazing man, and I know that many miss him.
I hope this gets to you. You and Zeno have both made so many contributions in my life that I will forever be grateful.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, I have been concerned about you and am hoping that you are well. I wish you the very best always and, again, am very sorry to learn of your loss and the loss that many must feel.
I send love,
His name just popped into my head this evening. I never knew him but my brother Jim did, as a student at MCC, about 1970. Jim too, was a kind and open person, and greatly literate, and because he occasionally mentioned Zeno’s name through the years with fondness, I remembered it as well. Zeno must have been one-of-a-kind. or at least, very rare. I know Jim was. Jim passed in 2012, but Zeno influenced Jim and Jim greatly influenced me, and on it goes. Funny how one man can go so far. With love, from a stranger.
Rev. Karen Chavez, Deacon
So late to leave a condolence now, but I was just writing a sermon for Palm Sunday and his name is included in it. I knew him as Deacon Zeno at St. Paul’s and as my 7th grade Sunday School teacher. He once asked us to consider the question, “what was the significance of Palm Sunday?” He made us think, as did our priest Don Robinson. Several young people from that Congregation later became clergy.
Mr Johnson was my English Lit teacher in my senior year in ’65-’66 at Camelback High. My classmates and I did not know what to make of him in the first day of class with his somewhat eccentric humor and all embracing presence. I think almost all of us learned to respect and love him by the end of the school year.
He was so learned and tried to get the best of out of each of us. He had a great sense of humor. I still distinctly remember him joking about how, “Scarlett won her ‘A'” in the “Scarlett Letter”. I was a shy kid and blushed. At which point, he verbally called out with enthusiasm: “Jon, that’s really great capillary action you have there!” Naturally, I blushed even more and the class roared with laughter.
I quickly forgave him, though. He taught us so much about English and other subjects. He never put anyone down for their opinions. He was always kind and understanding towards the students while passionately trying to teach us the class’s subject matter–and also throwing in some interesting side subject matter as well.
He was great teacher and a very fine man. I will never forget him while I am alive and of sound mind. He was my favorite teacher in high school by far.
My deepest condolences.