We are highlighting examples of Black excellence every day this February….and beyond! Feel free to send us suggestions!
Ronn Johnson (1959-2022) was a pillar of the Springfield, MA community. He was born in Hartford, CT on January 7, 1959, to Clara Johnson (nee Brown) and Fletcher Johnson, originally of Lumpkin and Cuthbert, Georgia, respectively. The Johnsons came to Springfield, MA shortly following Ronn’s birth and settled in their family home on Willard Avenue.
Ronn attended Homer Street School, White Street Elementary School, M. Marcus Kiley Jr. High, and graduated from Classical High School in 1977. He went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree from Western New England University (then Western New England College) and a Master’s in Counseling Psychology from Cambridge College.
Ronn would spend the next 40-plus years working to make the city of Springfield, especially the community surrounding Mason Square, a better place. He worked at W. W. Johnson Life Center and Dunbar Community Center before working for the Center for Human Development for 13 years. While he was working at CHD, Ronn founded the City-wide Violence Prevention Task Force, aimed at reducing gun violence and making the streets of Springfield a safer place for youth. Following his tenure at CHD, Ronn was named Director for Community Responsibility at MassMutual where he worked to bring resources into the Springfield community.
In 2012, after years of service as a member of the board and later as a consultant, Ronn became President/CEO of Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services. During his tenure, Ronn led the organization to raise millions of dollars in funding and expanded programming for school-age children, college-bound youth, and adult learners. There was a special place in his heart for the work of MLK’s food pantry, which provides a selection of safe and healthy food choices for over 300 families per week.
In 1998, Ronn, along with his wife Donna and friends founded The Brianna Fund for Children with Physical Disabilities – named after their daughter Brianna who was born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta. When an outpouring of support from the community resulted in an overflow of donations, Ronn made it his mission to continue the work of the fund to address the mobility and access needs of other families with children with disabilities in Western Massachusetts. In the last 24 years, The Brianna Fund has received over $750,000 in donations and provided assistance to 50 families.
Ronn was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Inc. He was a member of St. John’s Congregational Church, including previously having served as church Moderator. Ronn served on countless boards including Community Music School of Springfield, MassHire Springfield (formerly FutureWorks Career Center), Providers’ Council, Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA), and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield’s Independent Task Force on the Response to Sexual Abuse.
Ronn leaves to cherish his legacy: the great love of his life, his wife Donna, son Ronald, and daughter Brianna; along with his “daughter-in-love” Clinesha and his grandchildren Jade and Jonas. His mother, Clara Johnson-Bunn, sisters Jo-Ann Miller, Regina Jackson, and Charlotte Payne, and brothers-in-law Marvin Miller, Philip Jackson, and Todd Payne. He also leaves his deeply loved aunt, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins. He is predeceased by his father, Fletcher L. Johnson, and stepfather Billy E. Bunn. Ronn also leaves countless friends, colleagues, fraternity brothers, and mentees throughout the country and in Springfield MA, which he referred to as his “Beloved Community”.