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Obituary: Cynthia Johnson ’38

Belfast — Cynthia (White) Johnson, 95, died at home Aug. 31, 2010. She was born April 17,1915, in West Collingswood, N.J.

Cynthia grew up in New Jersey and New York and graduated from Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, in 1938, where she married Richard M. Johnson, an Antioch College graduate of 1939. As compassionate and conscientious people, Cynthia and Richard were unable to support the war, and turned to farming instead.

After her four children were in school, Cynthia earned a master's degree from Rutgers University and started a professional career in reference and children's literature in public and school libraries. In the 1970s she re-cataloged the collection of the Belfast Free Library.

An activist her whole life, Cynthia accompanied her husband, Dick, to Quang Ngai, Vietnam, in 1967 as part of the American Friends Service Committee. There they administered a hospital and a daycare center as well as a prosthetics center for war-injured people. Bombed out during the Tet Offensive of March 1968, they returned to their lives in the States.

Increasingly disillusioned by military might and politics, they retired from their professions early, became war-tax resisters, and embraced subsistence living. This interest in sustainability brought them to Monroe, where they started Commonterra, a community land trust, which has housed Toddy Pond School and Teltane Farms, as well as several families interested in light living on the land.

Cynthia was a forward-looking woman who stepped gracefully and determinedly out of the confines of the customary roles for women of her era. She allowed her family and friends the same freedoms. Taking solace from the predictability and beauty of the moon, stars and constellations and the patience and resilience of trees gave Cynthia a peaceful respite from the ever-increasing tangle of modern life.

Through her loving confidence and eloquence, she allowed those who knew her during this recent short but intense dying the privilege of sharing in her belief that death is a natural adventure and not something to be feared. She donated her body to medical research through the anatomical donor program at the University of New England and the University of Vermont.

She was predeceased by her parents, Clifford White and Ruth Powell White; two brothers, Edmund and David; and her husband, Richard M. Johnson. She is survived by a son, David L. Johnson (Antioch College '65), and his wife, Gail, of Syracuse, N.Y. (Antioch College '66); three daughters, Melissa Johnson of Montville, Margot White of Burlington, Vt., and Mallery Dalto of Belfast; five granddaughters, Amy and Christine Johnson, Jessica Keteyian and Rachael and Georgia Dalto; and two great-granddaughters, Violet and Lula Keteyian.