September 1, 1931 – September 26, 2023
It is with sadness, but also with appreciation for a life well lived, that we announce to the Dartmouth/St Mark’s/UC Berkeley/Episcopal Church and wider community the passing of our friend, colleague, and family member, Dr. Leonard Wilkie Johnson, on September 26, 2023 at the age of 92. Len was born in Oakland, California, to Leonard Carl and Frances Wilkie Johnson in 1931. His father worked for many years in the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, which meant moving the family every few years from the west coast to the east coast then back again. His sister Thora was born two years after Len, and they remained close friends throughout their lives.
Len had a rich life in academia, discovering a passion early on for France and French history and literature. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in French from Dartmouth (Senior Fellow) and his PhD (Fulbright Scholar) from Harvard University in French literature of the late medieval and early Renaissance ages. During this time in his life, he was able to spend extended periods in France, living, working, and studying in Bordeaux, Aix-en-Provence, and other parts of the country. At the conclusion of his doctorate in 1961, he accepted a professorship in the French department at U.C. Berkeley, where he remained for 35 years. He loved teaching! After retirement he maintained close ties to France, guiding culture and history trips to the country (often with a focus on food and wine, another lifelong interest of his), and being recognized by the French government for his contributions to the furtherance of French culture. Len was well known amongst his friends as being an excellent host and chef of great dinner parties.
His other deep and lifelong connection was to his Episcopal church. After being raised in the Baptist church, he began attending Episcopal services during his time in college, and was confirmed in the Episcopal Church several years later. Soon after arriving in Berkeley, he began attending services at St Mark’s, found his spiritual home, was soon volunteering, and quickly made this community a central part of his life. He served in numerous roles at St Mark’s, including Head Usher and, many times, as Senior Warden. Given his many gifts, Len also served the Episcopal Diocese of California and national Episcopal Church in many capacities, including Chair of the diocesan Standing Committee, Chair of the Board of the Examining Chaplains and, most recently, as a Board member of the Episcopal Church Foundation. In addition to his dedicated work on the boards of church organizations and charities, he was available to provide many years of assistance to members of the congregation when they were ill or infirm. He will be remembered by all for his wit, compassion, dedication, and enjoyment of life.
He is survived by his nephew Adham, Adham’s wife Crystal and their two sons Tasman and Atlas, his nephew Raef, his brother-in-law Wafik and many dear friends.
There will be a Celebration of Life for Len at a time, most likely in June 2024, convenient for the family, who are spread throughout the world. Donations in honor of Len can be made to St. Mark’s Episcopal Church or to Episcopal Charities of the Episcopal Diocese of California.