Obituary: Cynthia Barnes Johnson

May 30, 1942 – Nov. 13, 2023

Cynthia had an amazing life.
She was born in Rockford on May 30, 1942. Her parents were Phoebe and Bill Barnes. Her older sister is Caryl Barnes and younger brother is Peter (Linda) Barnes.

Cynthia had an outstanding marriage to Albert Johnson for over 60 years. They started dating in high school, but had casually known each other their whole lives. She was a wonderful mother to Bruce Johnson, Tad Johnson (Beth Von Ohlen), and Ellen (Charlie) Willmore and a wonderful grandmother to Alexander, Lucinda, Netta and Wyatt.

Cynthia had a life-long love of words, writing poetry beginning in the second grade. Cynthia published two books of poetry and has hundreds of unpublished poems. Her favorite part of ministry was preparing a meaningful sermon for every Sunday service.

She loved learning. Cynthia was a voracious reader. At Grinnell College she pursued her own reading interests, not always compatible with her required reading as an English major. She took religion classes at Lawrence University, earned an MS in Curriculum and Supervision from UW-Oshkosh and a Masters of Divinity from Perkins School of Theology at SMU. She was ordained as a Unitarian Universalist minister in 1991 by the First Unitarian Church of Dallas.

She taught 5th grade in Grinnell, Iowa and Berwyn, Illinois. Cynthia was a community leader in Appleton. During her 16 years there, she was president of the League of Women Voters twice, served on various boards and commissions, briefly ran a daycare center and worked part-time at UW-O and Lawrence. After ordination, she held several ministerial positions in Dallas and was called to be the minister of the First Unitarian Church of Oklahoma City in 1995.

In 2000, Cynthia and Al retired to Door County where she continued to periodically preach, teach classes and perform weddings and memorial services. In Door County, she took up painting and was active at the Peninsula School of Art and in various poetry groups. It was a life well lived!

Her family is grateful for many friends and caregivers who supported Cynthia and Al throughout her years with dementia and for Unity Hospice for their care and guidance during her final five months of life.

Memorial gifts may be given to Unity Hospice, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Door County, the Door County Land Trust or your favorite Door County cause.

A memorial service will be held in December.

Casperson Funeral Home & Cremation Services in Sister Bay is assisting the family. Expressions of sympathy, memories, and photos of Cynthia may be shared with her family through her tribute page at