Remembering Al Johnson

ESL Tutor Al Johnson

Barbara Bush Library staff are saddened to report the passing of Al Johnson, our beloved volunteer tutor. Al began teaching ESL at the library in 2001. Since then he had logged more than 2,400 hours and taught nearly 150 ESL students. Al also conducted weekly Spanish classes at Barbara Bush and German classes at the Doss Center.

Al was passionate about teaching and spent many hours developing materials specific to the needs of his students. He researched and produced vocabulary lists for restaurant workers, domestic workers, a welder, a physician, dentists, and engineers. Under Al’s guidance, many of his students were able to resume careers that began in their native country, but were interrupted by the language barrier in the U.S.

Besides enhancing language skills, Al embraced all that’s practical by teaching hands-on life skills. He demonstrated routine car maintenance, and took students to flea markets and restaurants to give them confidence when speaking with strangers. He role-played the part of employer, doctor and teacher so they could practice for an upcoming job interview, consultation with their doctor, or phone call to their child’s school. He incorporated civics and history into his lessons, and last year three of his students became U.S. citizens which made Al very proud.

On Saturday, after his two-hour beginner’s class, Al might spend several more hours with those needing extra help. His Thursday night class often reconvened in the library parking lot after closing.

One might assume that Al had no time for other pursuits, but not so. He enjoyed photography, genealogy, music and ballroom dancing. He was on the computer every night while most of us were asleep, forwarding photographs, humorous articles and political musings. Those of us on his mailing list will miss our daily dose of news from Al.

And that mailing list was long. In addition to three children and seven grandchildren, Al had many friends around the world. His career as a chemical engineer took him to far-flung places and Al never met a stranger. He was a tall, distinguished presence at social gatherings who kept the conversation flowing and made everyone feel comfortable.

Al was also a Veteran and a patriot, a polyglot fluent in English, Spanish, German and French, and a collector of 1,000 hats and 1,000 books.

Al left as his legacy an enduring example of hard work, high standards, compassion and amazing dedication to community service. We were so fortunate to have him in our lives. How we will miss Al Johnson, our role model, our Super Hero!