Barbara Johnson loves to get lost in any good, suspense-filled story.
She’s part of a book club where she receives a monthly selection of books at Roseville Senior, one of New Community’s residences for seniors and disabled adults in Newark, where Johnson has lived for eight years.
“I’m a reader,” she said. “I love mysteries.”
She also enjoys the thrill of television shows such as “NCIS,” “Murder, She Wrote,” and “Law and Order.”
However, Johnson still finds plenty of time to be involved in the life of her building, according to Alisha Chatman-Jenkins, care coordinator at Roseville Senior.
“She likes to stay busy and is an extremely impactful resident” at Roseville Senior, Chatman-Jenkins said.
Johnson, 71, is no bookworm when it comes to getting to know her neighbors, however.
“I don’t meet strangers,” she said. “Maybe it’s just my personality.”
As the sergeant-at-arms during Tenant Association meetings—where disputes and conflicts are addressed—Johnson’s presence helps to maintain order.
“Ms. Barbara is who I call the voice of reason in the building,” Chatman-Jenkins said. “When there are problems in the building amongst the residents and everyone is in an uproar, she is the one to calm any situation to where they all can talk to each other as adults.”
Born in Baltimore, Md., Johnson moved to New Jersey in 1962 upon graduating from high school. In 1965, she married and moved to Gary, Ind., where she worked on the railroads as a clerk and spent time outdoors, recording numbers on the freight trains and tracking what came in and out of the yard.
“A lot of people didn’t know they hired women,” Johnson recalled, noting that she was the third African-American hired at the company. She left the Midwest after she and her husband separated and returned to Newark.
At Roseville Senior, Johnson promotes resident participation in meetings, educational workshops and trips, Chatman-Jenkins said.
“All she says to me is, ‘Give (me) the time and date and I will do the rest,’” she said of Johnson.