Because of the pandemic, the services for Mr. Johnson, planned for Sunday and Monday, will be very different from what he used to provide for his flock. His church, Praise Temple Full Gospel Baptist Church, where he was senior pastor for the last quarter century, will restrict the number of mourners in order to maintain social distancing. There will be temperature checks, and masks will be mandatory.
The visitation period, usually limited to four hours, has been doubled, again to allow for distancing as people bid farewell to a man who, in the funeral business, is called a last responder.
Mr. Johnson was a funeral director, mortician and embalmer for 40 years, the last five of which he spent at Perches. One of the business’s six branches in El Paso has been converted into an operations center to manage the increased volume of work caused by the coronavirus; its chapel is now a refrigeration unit that can hold up to 80 bodies.
Harrison Bradley Johnson Jr. was born on Sept. 22, 1955, in El Paso, the second oldest of 12 children. Praising the Lord was and remains the family business. His father, the Rev. Harrison Bradley Johnson, and his mother, Stella Pearl Johnson, were both in the ministry, as are most of his siblings and children.
In addition to his son Toraino, Mr. Johnson is survived by his mother; his wife, Shirlon; four other children, Erreshea Younger, Crystal Johnson, Letisha Johnson-White and Donnay Johnson; 12 grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; and 10 siblings.
A basketball star in his youth, Mr. Johnson was nicknamed “Lightning.” After a stint in the Army, he earned multiple degrees in religious studies and developed a passion for gospel music. He served for 15 years as choir director of the Gospel Music Workshop of America, an annual assembly of interdenominational musicians.
But his favorite activity was going to the movies. Every Sunday night, he and his wife and whoever else wanted to come along would go to the AMC El Paso 16 multiplex, his son Toraino said. Mr. Johnson would head for the concession stand, order a tub of popcorn with extra butter and a large soda, and settle in to watch whatever was playing. For a couple of hours at least, he could rest.