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Air Force civilian’s legacy lives on with conference room dedication and memorial

Marsha K. Johnson Dedication

Air Force District of Washington Commander Maj. Gen. James A. Jacobson unveils a conference room in honor of Marsha K. Johnson, Air Force Strategic Programming and Development Facility director, at the Gen. Jacob E. Smart Conference Center here Nov. 16. Johnson passed away July 26, and AFDW memorialized her with a ceremony in which her husband, retired Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Donald J. Johnson (center), and daughter Rebecca Kay Salonish (right), among others, attended. (U.S. Air Force photo/2nd Lt. Jessica Cicchetto/released)

Marsha K. Johnson Dedication

A portrait of Marsha K. Johnson, Air Force Strategic Programming and Development Facility director, sits at the Gen. Jacob E. Smart Conference Center here Nov. 16. Johnson passed away July 26, and AFDW memorialized her with the dedication of a conference room bearing her name. (U.S. Air Force photo/2nd Lt. Jessica Cicchetto/released)

Marsha K. Johnson Dedication

Retired Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Donald J. Johnson delivers remarks before family, friends, and colleagues at the Gen. Jacob E. Smart Conference Center, in honor of his late wife, Marsha K. Johnson, for whom a conference room was dedicated following her passing away July 26. The ceremony took place on their 16th wedding anniversary. (U.S. Air Force photo/2nd Lt. Jessica Cicchetto/released)

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Maryland -- Air Force District of Washington leadership memorialized Marsha K. Johnson, Air Force Strategic Programming and Development Facility director, with the dedication of a conference room bearing her name at the Gen. Jacob E. Smart Conference Center here Nov. 16.

Johnson, who passed away July 26, would have celebrated her 16th wedding anniversary on the same day as the dedication ceremony.

AFDW Commander Maj. Gen. James A. Jacobson joined Johnson’s family, friends, and colleagues during the unveiling of the room within the 46,000 square foot facility, noting the SCC and community have suffered a tremendous loss.

“This was Marsha's place -- she came and hung out with thousands of people,” Jacobson said. “So the opportunity to make sure that she stays here forever is pretty cool.”

Jacobson explained that Johnson’s name on the door is befitting for the Defense Department’s most senior leaders to see during their visits, from the Air Force Secretary and Air Force chief of staff, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Defense Secretary, who will continue to use the room for conferences and events.

"The lady who was always there to greet them will still be there to greet them for every day forward,” Jacobson said. “They might not all know her, but I think her essence of taking care of those folks [will stay], and she'll be there to look in on them and take care of the senior leaders as they do great things for this country.”

Johnson, 58, was born in Cumberland, Maryland, and raised on a farm in Hyndman, Pennsylvania. It was simple country living, hard work, and the guidance of her parents that instilled in Johnson her ethics, zeal for life and family, and a knack for making everyone feel at home, her husband, now-retired Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Donald Johnson said in remarks at the dedication.

Marsha’s career began humbly in the early 1980s, when she served as a civilian at U.S. Army Europe in various Morale, Welfare, and Recreation leadership positions.

She parlayed her management and leadership skills to Air Force Services in 1995 and took a position as general manager of the Clubs at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Michigan, where she met her husband. Her career continued to flourish with general manager positions at the base clubs on Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, D.C., Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, and McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, before she and Donald wed.

"Marsha worked hard at every job she's ever had -- whether it was a club manager or volunteering, there was always the Marsha touch -- everything turned to gold,” Johnson said of his late wife.

Johnson said he’s awed to know that when their children and grandchildren return to the SCC, Marsha’s legacy will carry on and convey the significance of what a namesake means.

He recounted that people routinely visit and travel military installations and streets without thinking about why the locations are so named. He cited for example, Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, named after Army Cpl. Frank S. Scott, the first enlisted member of the U.S. Armed Forces to die in an aircraft accident Sept. 28, 1912.

“The significance of why this room was named after her must continue on for generations where employees tell new employees her story, and where AFDW commanders tell new commanders, directors, and employees her story,” Johnson said to attendees, including her children Rebecca Kay Salonish and Adam Ronald Salonish, and Adam’s wife, Stacy. “The dishwasher who started off in 1983 in Mannheim, Germany, now has a room in the Gen. Jacob E. Smart Conference Center named for her.”