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Barbara Zimmermann Johnson

Mrs. Melvin T. Johnson (Barbara “Babs” Zimmermann) of Lafayette Hill, PA, died on November 30, 2011, at Chestnut Hill Hospital in Philadelphia.

Born in Haverford, PA, on July 26, 1927, to Albert W. Zimmermann, president of the wool-brokering firm Ott and Zimmermann, and the former Barbara Shoemaker, she was educated at The Baldwin School, Chatham Hall, and Smith College. She enjoyed summers at the Maidstone Club in East Hampton, and made her debut in Philadelphia in 1944. After graduation she taught at the Episcopal Academy before embarking on a somewhat more adventurous phase of life as an officer with the Central Intelligence Agency.

Perhaps the most consequential of her various postings in the Middle East during the 1950s was her assignment to the embassy in Amman, Jordan, where she met her future husband. Mr. Johnson, a Harvard alumnus who worked in numerous capacities for the U.S. government and international relief organizations in the Middle East during the Second World War and in post-war Europe, later became the owner and president of the venerable Philadelphia confectionery Maron Famous Candies. His two animating passions were golf and peace in the Middle East, an unusual combination that may have best found expression in his winning the Tripoli Golf Championship in 1955. Mr. Johnson died in Bryn Mawr in March 2002.

As newlyweds the Johnsons lived in Georgetown and then in Yemen before ultimately settling in Radnor, PA, where they raised their two daughters. Babs never lost her dutiful sense of civic-mindedness. She was an active member of the vestry and choir of Saint Martin’s Church, a longtime docent at the Philadelphia Zoo, a diligent subscriber to the Philadelphia Orchestra and Opera, and a volunteer with Philadelphia area chapters of the League of Women Voters. She always retained her enthusiasm for international travel, studying French, Arabic, and German. An avid bridge and tennis player, she was a member of Gulph Mills Golf Club, and made a point of completing the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle every week.

Mrs. Johnson is survived by her daughters, Mrs. Thomas A. Riley III (Barbara W. Johnson) of Radnor, and Mrs. Brian Handwerk (Alice J. Johnson) of Amherst, NH; a brother, Dr. Albert W. Zimmermann Jr. of Flourtown, PA; a sister, Mrs. (Dr.) George J. Hill (Helene Zimmermann) of West Orange, NJ; and seven grandchildren, Fiona, Penelope, John, Vincent and Richard Riley, and Lillian and Phoebe Handwerk.

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