Music 32

Shirley Jean (Burson) Johnson

June 29, 1944 ~ April 22, 2019 (age 74)


Shirley Jean BursonJohnson passed away, Monday, April 22, 2019 after a 32-month battle with a rare form of pancreatic cancer.  She received therapy from top cancer centers, including M D Anderson, the number one cancer center in the United States.


“Shirley was the kindest, most sincere person I have ever known.” – Roland H. Johnson.


Shirley was born June 29, 1944 to the late Rozella Elizabeth (Washum) Burson and Hugh Burson Jr. in McKenzie, Tennessee. She spent her childhood growing up in Elkhart, Indiana.


Music was a life-long passion and she studied piano, organ, saxophone and voice.  Her earliest jobs were playing at church and teaching piano. She played in various music groups and during her college years was employed by the Ball State University Music Department.


Her college years accomplishments included being a finalist in the Miss Ball State Pageant. This was a preliminary for Miss Indiana and Miss America Pageants and it was unusual for a Black female to be supported by the white community during the mid-1960’s. Shirley was a member of the Kappa Tau Sigma Sorority, the founding sorority of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority at Ball State University.

She received her Bachelor of Science with a major in Social Science and a minor in piano at Ball State University. She also received a Master’s Degree from Ball State University. She obtained her certification in counseling and school administration. She completed an additional two years of graduate studies at several universities after completing her Master’s Degree. 

Shirley taught history and geography at Test Junior High School in Richmond, Indiana and was a Guidance Counselor at Franklin Junior High School, Snider High School and Northrop High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She was a Fort Wayne Community Schools Chapter 1/Title 1 Parent Coordinator and Assistant Principal at Whitney Young Elementary School.

 Leadership positions included charter member and President of the Fort Wayne Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, President of Fort Wayne Chapter of The Links, Inc. President of Northwood Park Association, and Vice President of Unity Performing Arts Board of Directors.  She served as a board member of Family and Children Services, Fort Wayne Education Foundation/Questa, and Headwaters Park Alliance. Additional service included the Voices of Unity Task Force Committee, Junior League and various educational and professional organizations.

 Shirley loved doing things for her family and others.  She loved traveling with family, collecting art, and discussing politics.  She was an active member of Faith United Methodist Church where she was involved in the church music ministry, Bible Class, Staff Parrish Committee and Martha’s Circle.

Shirley is survived by her devoted husband, Roland H. Johnson and her daughter, Sharlese R. Johnson whom she lovingly shared her life with; her brother, Victor (Antoinette) Burson; nephew, Brandon Burson; grandniece Carmen Burson along with a host of other relatives and friends.

 She was also preceded in death by a special aunt, Roberta Britt.

A Memorial Service will be held at Noon, July 29, 2019 at Faith United Methodist Church to honor the life of Shirley.

Family request memorials to the Voices of Unity and the American Cancer Society.

To plant a tree in memory of Shirley Jean (Burson) Johnson, please visit our tribute store.


Memorial Service
July 29, 2019

12:00 PM

Please note
In lieu of flowers family request donations the organizations listed below the obituary.


Voices of Unity - Performing Arts Foundation
2101 E. Coliseum Blvd Suite 230B, Fort Wayne IN 46805
Tel: 1-260-481-6719

Cancer Services of N.E. Indiana
6316 Mutual Drive, Fort Wayne IN 46825
Tel: 1-260-484-9560

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