Florence Ada May Elizabeth Sheppard Johnson, OM, was born to Amelia Isaac and James Alexander Sheppard on 19th June, 1921. The midwife recorded her name as Florence and born at Liberta, Antigua and Barbuda. She has, however, never been known as Florence, but by what is suspected to be her baptismal name, Ada May.
As a child, she was taken care of by an adopted aunt, the village teacher. She attended the Gracehill Government School and, perhaps not surprisingly, she began her teaching career at a very early age at that institution. The Pupil Teacher system was the order of the day then, and at the end of four years of teacher training, she was awarded a scholarship to attend the Spring Gardens Teacher Training College in Antigua.
After college, she was assigned to the St John’s Girls Government School (which was then under the able and capable management of the late Mary Pigott) where she taught for 22 years. During this period, she specialised in craft work and attended courses in Grenada and later at Brighton College of Arts and Craft in England. She was next assigned to the Ministry of Education where she served in two capacities –Supervisor of Girl’s Handicraft, and Secretary to the then Administrator of Local and Overseas Examinations — for 10 years.
After retirement from the government service and a much-needed rest for approximately 1½ years, Mrs Johnson again took up the teaching mantle at the Foundation Mixed (Miss Davis) School labouring there for 16 years, until she finally completely retired. In all she served 52 years as an educator.
On a more personal note, she married the late Walter R Johnson in the 1950s. This marriage produced six sons – Maurice (deceased), Costayne, Lenworth, Karol, Michael, and Patrick. An adopted son, Ivor James (deceased), completes the lineup of boys. She has 16 grandchildren.
Mrs Johnson loves singing, dancing and music in general. She sang in choirs such as the Spring Gardens Senior Choir (she was a Moravian then), the Community Players, and the St Joseph’s and Holy Family Cathedral Church Choirs.
In 2017, Ada May Elizabeth Sheppard Johnson received national honours, and was named an Officer of the Most Illustrious Order of Merit, OM, for distinguished contribution to technical and vocational education.
She made great sacrifices for her children, grandchildren and others. She will always be remembered as a somewhat quiet and unassuming person with a fierce determination to accomplish the things she wanted to, and an abiding love for her country of Antigua and Barbuda.
Happy 100th birthday, Mrs Johnson!