Kelly Louise Johnson (Thompson)
August 8, 1959 – December 26, 2022
Kelly Louise Johnson, as fierce, loyal, selfless, and independent a woman as has ever existed,
died December 26, 2022, at the end of a long and exhausting fight against congestive heart
She was born August 8, 1959 to William and Susan Thompson. Her father was a broad-
shouldered, barrel-chested titan of a man, and the owner of an insurance agency. Her mother
left soon after.
Kelly attended Chicago public schools – Clissold Elementary until 1973, Morgan Park High
School through 1977 – before heading to Carbondale, IL, to attend Southern Illinois University.
As she was packing her things and preparing to move to Carbondale, her childhood friends
Martha and Lorna recommended she connect with Mark Johnson, who through a recent chance
meeting they knew could get her details on a Bible study at SIU.
Kelly tracked down Mark. They talked for an hour and a half. Their first date was a week later.
Each reported back to their roommate: “I think I met the person I’m going to marry.”
Kelly and Mark were married on August 16, 1980, the same year she graduated from SIU with a
Physical Therapy Assistant Associates Degree, and they began their life together in Springfield,
IL. Their first child, William, was born in 1982. With barely a second thought, she chose to be a
The stay in Springfield was short. Frustrated by job prospects, the young family moved to
Chicago, IL, in 1983. Their second child, Erin, was born in 1984.
As the children approached school age, the Johnsons eyed the suburbs, and in 1987 moved to
Tinley Park. Kelly established herself as neighborhood mom. Her house a safe place for
everyone’s kids, her gentle lovingkindness available after anyone’s playground injury.
In 1991, Kelly delivered a stillborn child, Jimmy.
With the kids becoming increasingly self-sufficient, Kelly began her second career. She
graduated from Governor’s State University in University Park, IL, in 1995, and for the next 11
years taught as a 3rd Grade teacher at Kruse Elementary School in Orland Park, IL.
It hardly seems right to relegate 11 years of anyone’s life to a single sentence, much less the
supernova of love and care and service that was Kelly Johnson, so please allow your narrator a
brief derivation from this rote biography.
When she was in college, Kelly first heard the song “Ugly Louise”, a song from the band Dove
about a stringy-haired, bewarted young girl with whom Kelly shared both a name and feelings
“Louise was a loser,” the song goes, “but Jesus wouldn’t refuse her. In fact He gave His life to
choose her for His own.”
And from that moment forward Kelly knew she was special. She knew that she was loved. She
was defined not by the mother who left, but by the Savior who had chosen her.
This filled Kelly with purpose and love and patience and drive and creativity and freedom and
passion and a need to invest these into something. And so yes, said unremarkably, Kelly spent
the next 11 years as a third-grade teacher, but through the lens of who Kelly was, one can
understand that those 11 years were spent filling the lives of 8-year-olds with love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control. And then she retired.
She took up photography, joined the Forester’s Camera Club, and won several competitions.
She won the very first vehicle sticker photography contest for the Village of Tinley Park in 2010.
She took on the position Office Manager for Grace Fellowship Church in 2014.
But these are things Kelly did, not who Kelly was.
Kelly loved everyone in her orbit with her entire being. When your narrator first started to
gather the dates and locations that made up the beats of Kelly’s life, her husband described her
as a “fierce and loyal lover of people” though I would argue that her reach hardly stopped with
Kelly was a woman who found a cat mangled by a hit-and-run, brought it to the vet, and offered
to care for it if nobody else came in to claim it. To this day, that three-legged cat continues to
live in Mark’s basement.
Kelly was a woman who protected and cared for those in her life with ferocity. There’s a line in
the musical Hamilton where King George promises to the American colonies that he will “send a
fully armed battalion to remind you of my love,” a sentiment with which Kelly could identify.
Kelly spent her final years, in her tired, exhausted body, working side by side with her stepsister
Char to care for Kelly’s aging stepmother Charlene.
Kelly was a woman who demanded that Mark answer hard questions in his Sunday School
lessons. “What does that look like?” “How do I do that?” She constantly pressed Mark to go
beyond abstract concepts and search for the application. “She knew it frustrated me, but she
loved me and wanted me to be a better teacher,” says Mark.
Kelly was a woman who spent her last year on earth seeing to the affairs of the mother that left
her, flying to Georgia, fighting probate courts, tidying details, and ultimately, capturing Susan’s
life in a noble hagiography, Kelly’s own part relegated to the line: “Over the next few years,
they had two children.”
Kelly loved language and words as much as she hated the font Comic Sans. Your narrator isn’t
sure how to fit this in elsewhere, but no accurate account of Kelly’s life is complete without it.
For the better part of 25 years, Kelly’s dad suffered from a motor neuron disease. In this
experience, Kelly learned to enjoy every moment. Each passing year wasn’t another year of
hardship, but another gift: “isn’t it wonderful that we got one more year?”
In 2015, Kelly first had a conversation with her cardiologist about her heart. Later that year, she
received a pacemaker. Nobody was more acutely aware of the gift of one more year than Kelly.
“One more year” let her meet her grandchildren. “One more year” let her care for her
stepmother. “One more year” allowed her to continue to fill the lives of everyone around her
Her family is thankful to God for the gift of so many “one more years.”
Kelly was predeceased by her brother, Timothy, and her son, Jimmy. She is survived by her
husband of 42 years, Mark, of Tinley Park, Illinois; her son William (Terri) and daughter Erin
(Nader) Kharazi; her grandchildren Wyatt, Archie, and Louis; her sister Char (Ted) Pierce; her nieces
and nephews Kate, Aiden, Elyse (Carlos), Andrew, Matt, and Emma (Brody); her stepmother
Charlene; and a mostly-feral three-legged cat in Mark’s basement.
Visitation Friday, December 30, 2022 from 3-8 p.m. at Colonial Chapel, 15525 S. 73rd Ave. (155th/Wheeler Dr. & Harlem) Orland Park, IL. Lying in State Saturday, December 31, 2022 at Grace Fellowship Church, 15150 Oak Park Ave., Oak Forest, IL 60452 from 10:00 a.m. until time of Funeral Service 11:00 a.m. A live-stream of the service will be available. Please visit Kelly's obituary on Colonial Chapel's website at colonialchapel.com to view the live-stream of the service. The Link is posted below.Interment private.
Memorials to American Heart Association, P.O. Box 840692, Dallas, TX 75284-0692 are appreciated.
Below is the Link to the live-stream of Kelly's Funeral Service on Saturday, December 31, 2022 at 11:00AM CST.
Express your thoughts and condolences at colonialchapel.com 708-532-5400