Pioneer Museum honors longtime volunteer

Published 11:00 pm Thursday, July 26, 2012

Agnes Johnson was honored Thursday by the Pioneer Museum for her many years of volunteer work.

The Pioneer Museum of Alabama honored one of its longtime volunteers Thursday for her unyielding dedication to the museum and its mission.

“Agnes Johnson is one of the most dedicated volunteers that we have ever had,” said Kari Barley, museum director. “She is a member of our museum family and we wanted to show our appreciation to her for all that she means to us.”

Barley said the plaque presented is a small token for honoring one with such a huge and caring heart.

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“But there’s no way to adequately show Mrs. Agnes how much we appreciate her,” Barley said.

Johnson began her long tenure as a museum volunteer as a museum guide but ably stepped into the big shoes left by Alma Bodiford when she retired as “chief cook” at the Demonstration Cabin.

Johnson, a retired teacher, was the ideal choice as the “lady of the house.”

“Mrs. Agnes knows about pioneer living and she brought with her the ability to make history come alive for children,” Barley said. “She showed them how to shuck corn, sweep the yards, pump water to wash their hand and churn butter and then she let them try their hands at doing it all.

“She would fry cornbread on a wood stove and bake biscuits in the fireplace and tell the children all about old time living while she was doing it.”

Shanny Sansom, a museum volunteer, said Johnson brought “magic” to the Demo Cabin.

“Agnes has this apron that she says has two tails,” Sansom said. “It’s made from a pig feed sack and has two pigs on it. The children are fascinated by her apron and the tales that go along with it.”

Sansom said Johnson is one of those rare people who command the respect of children.

“Agnes has the ability to bring children into her world,” she said.

“She has brought history to life for hundreds of children and their lives are richer for it.”

What is also special about Johnson is her willing and unselfish attitude.

“Agnes is not a standout person,” Sansom said. “She’s never looked for the spotlight.”

Sansom said there’s not much of a crowd to gather to watch someone push a corncob mop, weed a garden or pick kudzu blooms in the hot summer time and then stand over the hot stove and make kudzu jelly to give away.

“But Agnes has made and given away no telling how much kudzu jelly,” Sansom said.

Grover Poole has volunteered with Johnson at the museum for “years.”

“I’d be working in the Adams Store and Agnes would send me a plate of whatever she was cooking at the cabin,” Poole said. “I didn’t too much want any kudzu jelly but, once I tasted it, I told Agnes I wanted a case of it and she sent it to me.”

Barley said the Pioneer Museum of Alabama has been fortunate to have volunteers like Johnson.

“We just appreciate her so much,” Barley said. “She is an inspiration to all of us and we just want her to know.”