Robert J. Johnson, 73, of Van Buren, formerly of Pine Bluff, died Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013 at Baylor T. Boone Pickens Cancer Hospital in Dallas, Texas.

Born July 12, 1940, in Pine Bluff to the late George F. and Ann Ferrara Johnson. Robert attended the Annunciation Academy, Pine Bluff High School and the University of Mississippi at Oxford. Following a 76 day courtship, he married his sweetheart and soul mate, Patt Long Johnson. The couple celebrated their 50th anniversary on May 18, 2013, and were the grateful parents of two children.

Robert was a retired quality engineer with Berenfield Containers, formerly Florida Drum Delta, and was previously employed by Standard Brake Shoe and Foundry. He also served as an examiner for the Arkansas Governor’s Quality Award.

A devout Catholic, Robert completed four years’ study and was ordained a permanent deacon for the Diocese of Little Rock on Dec. 14, 2002. He served St. Joseph Catholic Church in Pine Bluff until 2009 when he moved to Van Buren and was assigned to St. Michael Catholic Church where he served until his death. He also served on the diaconate formation team for the Diocese of Little Rock.

At St. Joseph, Robert’s ministries included marriage encounter, pre-cana, grief support and cancer support. His passion was ministering to the sick and dying. Additionally, Robert served on numerous committees and found great joy in growing basil for the annual spaghetti supper.

Robert served on the boards of Neighbor to Neighbor and the Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Ministerial Alliance. He attended Clinical Pastoral Education classes at Jefferson Regional Medical Center in Pine Bluff and served there as chaplain.

Robert was predeceased by his parents; his stepmother, Eva Gilmer Johnson; sister, Margaret Ann Johnson; two aunts instrumental in rearing him after his mother’s death, Marie and Jane Ferrara; and his cousin and best friend, Anthony Ferrara Ragar.

Survivors include his wife; daughter, Missy Hefner and her husband Keith of Van Buren; his son, Tony Johnson and wife Jennifer of Horgen, Switzerland; his brothers, Patrick (Jean) of Washington, D.C.; Dr. William F. Johnson (Ann) of Yarmouth, Mass.; Michael Johnson (Yvonne) of St. Louis, Mo.; brother-in-law, Frank Long (Mary) of Prairie Grove; sisters-in-law, Peaches Calhoun of Benton and Ann Roberts of Little Rock; grandchildren, Katie Hefner Bunzel (Eric) of Van Buren; Walt Hefner of Fayetteville; Elizabeth Evatt of Fort Smith; Drake and Alex Johnson of Horgen, Switzerland; and great-grandchildren, Caroline and Brooks Bunzel.

Graveside services will be 10:30 a.m. today at Graceland Cemetery with Father Andy Smith officiating by Ralph Robinson & Son Funeral Directors of Pine Bluff.

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