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Obituary for Joe Johnson

joe johnson

Joe Arley Johnson, the beloved patriarch of the Johnson family, passed from this life on June 7, 2022, in Fort Smith, Arkansas at the age of 91. Born Nov. 2, 1930, in his family home at Spiro, he was the son of Oscar Arley and Sylvia Susan (Casey) Johnson.

Joe’s memorial service is 10 a.m. June 25 at the First Baptist Church in Heavener. Funeral arrangements are under the direction of Dowden-Roberts Funeral Home.

Joe was a man of great faith and spent his entire adult life witnessing and spreading the word of God. He was an active member of the First Christian Church of Heavener since Feb. 10, 1952, helping start many young people out on the right path. After he moved to Brookdale Senior Living Center in Fort Smith, he still taught a Wednesday bible study.

“Papa Joe” served as an inspiration to all of his large family. He was always available with a suggestion or bit of advice. Whether they wanted it or not.

He loved to tell the story that his first job was at the movie theater. First, he sold popcorn and then he ran the projector. This early experience resulted in a love of movies, both good and bad, he loved them all. One of his favorite quotes was from True Grit, where John Wayne discussed crossing the “Po-too” (Poteau) River.

Following graduation from Spiro High School, Joe attended Oklahoma University, marrying his high school sweetheart, Martha Ellen Gentry, on Aug 4, 1950, in the chapel at St Paul’s Cathedral in Oklahoma City. He continued at OU, graduating in 3 ½ years with a BA in journalism. Two weeks after graduation, he became a father to twins, Joe David and Martha Ann, at the age of 20. Soon after, Lee, a daughter, and two sons, Bill and George, were born. Joe and Martha enjoyed 41 years of marriage until her death in 1991.

They moved to Heavener in 1950, where he became partners with his brother, Jack, in the Heavener Ledger. The Heavener Ledger prospered under their direction for the next two decades. Joe was also co-owner of The Waldron News and The Vian News.

He served in the Oklahoma legislature for 14 years as both a Representative and then a Senator, and was involved in Kiwanis Club, Gideons, and International Typographical Union. He was a retired volunteer fireman of the Heavener Fire Department, serving from 1954-1974, being the oldest retiree by seniority. Upon leaving the Senate, “Mr. J” felt called to work in the Department of Corrections guiding inmates by leading a class called New Directions. Joe instructed and encouraged inmates in their transition from prison life to becoming productive citizens. His teachings and leadership had a significant impact on the lives of many students in the New Directions class and he maintained a connection to several of ‘his boys’ for decades.

Joe and Peggy Sue Huie wed Jan 1, 1993 and began a loving partnership. Their large, combined family has been a source of joy, love and strength since the beginning and continues today.

An avid hunter, Joe loved his trips with friends and family whether it was quail hunting in western Oklahoma, McCurtain County for deer or Colorado elk hunting.

Joe was preceded in death by his parents; his brother, Jack Johnson; sisters Helen Edmunds and Sue Rogers; son George Robert Johnson; wives Martha Ellen and Peggy Sue; granddaughter, Megan Alissa Johnson; and son-in-law, Ken Lewallen.

Joe is survived by four children, four stepchildren and their families. His children include Joe David Johnson and wife Dee of Seattle; Ann Johnson Mead and husband Glenn of Purcell; Lee Johnson Lewallen of El Dorado, Kansas; and Bill Johnson and wife Pam of McCurtain. His stepchildren include Cindy Huie Miller of Oklahoma City; Bob “Tooter” Huie and wife Rhonda of Hontubby; Mark Huie and wife Sharon of Zoe; and Cody Huie of Heavener. He is also survived by numerous nieces and nephews.

Joe’s extended family includes many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, including Trisha Sutterfield and daughters Camille and Chloe of Oklahoma City; Scott Mead and wife DeLanna and daughter Annabelle of Oklahoma City; Jared Michael Lewallen and three daughters Kendal, Skylar and Chloe of Rose Hill, Kansas; Heather Mead Ormonde and husband Alan and daughters Elise and Jocelyn of Oklahoma City; Dustin Johnson and wife Shannon Bea and daughter MacKenzie Fagan and husband Keegan of Fort Leavenworth, Kansas; and son William Ever of Gillette, Wyoming; Alexis Robertson and husband Justin and son Eliot and daughter Reese of Oklahoma City; Christopher George Lewallen and wife Savannah and children Caiden, Cooper and Carsen of Augusta, Kansas; Timothy Allen Johnson and son Nash Arley of Tulsa; Jessica Moore and husband John and daughter Addison and son Townes of New Bedford, Maine; Wade Stanley of Stillwater;  Sarah Johnson Rockwell and husband Chauncy and children Elizabeth Grace, Alice Katherine and George David of Enid; and Nick Stanley of Oklahoma City; Tiffaney Huie Kirby and husband Caleb and sons Chet and Reid of Heavener; Krista Huie Webb and husband Todd and son Barrett “Bear” of Haskell; Carrie Huie Replogle of Haskell; Morgan Huie and daughter Whisper Winger of Heavener; Abby Huie of Hontubby and Josh James of Hodgen.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made in Joe’s honor to The Gideons International.

To sign Mrs. Johnson’s online guestbook please visit

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