Virginia Ruth Johnson

April 18, 1933 ~ October 19, 2019 (age 86)


. Celebration of life services will be held at 11 am Friday, October 25, 2019 at Mt. Hebron Baptist Church with interment to follow at Glendale Cemetery.

Virginia Ruth Johnson (White) was born on April 18, 1933, in College Park, Georgia, to Ruby (Bussey) and Willie White. She was educated in the Fulton County Public School District in Atlanta, GA, where she met Kemp Johnson, Sr.  Virginia and Kemp married in 1953 and made their ‘Great Migration’ north, in 1955, settling in Des Moines, IA, where Kemp’s brother resided.  Kemp and Virginia had three sons: Kenneth, Kemp Jr. and Darryl Dean; as well as two daughters: Delores and Kimberly. 

Virginia was a natural caregiver,  so taking care of others as a nurse came easily to her. She was employed at Bishop Drumm Care Center, Grandview Care Center, and Valley View Village, where she retired in 2009.

Her caregiving extended outside of work. She was known as the “Mother of 12th Street” because she welcomed (and often fed) the whole neighborhood for nearly 50 years.

Virginia was passionate about many things, but listening to Luther Vandross, watching WWE/WWF “wrastlin”, and tracking down the best garage sales all over town were definitely at the top of the list. She loved dogs. She loved “working her puzzles” (word searches) and would often do so with hot coffee on her tray and Walker, Texas Ranger on the TV.

Virginia was the matriarch of her family. Every family gathering—weekend barbeques, holidays, birthdays, any excuse to get together—she played the role of cook, drill sergeant, and entertainer. Virginia loved her grandchildren and great-grandchildren and made it clear to everyone that they were untouchable.

In her later years, Virginia was cared for by her youngest son, Dean. The two were inseparable. They traveled everywhere together, making several trips south to Atlanta and Alabama all by Greyhound bus.

Virginia was a faithful and dedicated member of her church, Mt. Olive Church of God Holiness in Atlanta, GA, until she relocated to Des Moines.

Virginia passed away on Saturday, October 19th, 2019 at Methodist Hospital at the age of 86.  

Preceding her in death were her parents, Ruby and Willie White; her brother, Harold White; son, Kenneth Johnson and grandson,  Jerome Johnson-Reid.

Left to cherish her many memories are her children, Delores Lankford, Kemp Johnson Jr., (Terri), Darryl “Dean”, Kimberly Jones (Erwin Sr.); Grandchildren, Alonzo Smith (Kia), Larissa Reid, Traci Gross (Daniel), Andrea, Erin and Erwin “Drew” Jones II, Simone Williams; Great-grandchildren, Alonzo, Amya, and Amari Smith, Caden Williams, Jamari Clarkson, Isaiah and Harper Gross.



To send flowers to Virginia's family, please visit our floral section.


October 24, 2019

5:00 PM to 7:00 PM
Henderson's Highland Park Funeral Home
3500 6th Ave
Des Moines, IA 50313

Celebration of Life
October 25, 2019

11:00 AM
Mt. Hebron Missionary Baptist Church
1338 9th Street
Des Moines, Iowa 50314

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