Linda and Warren Johnson co-founded Habitat for Humanity of Lincoln County in 1995. Warren passed away on June 1 at his home in Salem. He is survived by Linda.

Lucinda Taylor, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Lincoln County, informed local residents recently that “we lost a valued member of the Habitat family when Warren Johnson passed away peacefully at his home in Salem on June 1. Warren and his wife, Linda, lived in Lincoln County from 1981 to 2002 and were instrumental in founding our local Habitat for Humanity of Lincoln County affiliate.”

In a letter from 2018, Warren described how it all began. “In August 1994, Linda and I were living at Beverly Beach when Linda saw an article in the Oregonian about former President Jimmy Carter helping build a Habitat house in a small Georgia community. Linda said to me, ‘I wonder why there is no Habitat for Humanity program in Lincoln County.’ I said, ‘I don’t know, why don’t you start one!’ She said, ‘Maybe I will.’”

Linda made good on her promise by organizing a meeting in Newport in November 1994. She advertised for volunteers in the newspaper and on the bulletin boards of local churches, including at First Presbyterian Church of Newport where they were members. As Warren described it, “We assembled a group of about a dozen volunteers interested in establishing a Habitat program in Newport. The night of this first meeting … was ‘holy hell weatherwise’ as it was pouring rain and the coast winds must have been 50 or 60 miles per hour!” Dr. Bill Lindsay, a board member with a Habitat affiliate in Portland, passed out Habitat literature and a copy of sample bylaws and suggested ways to start a Habitat program.

Warren and Linda then developed a flyer to recruit more volunteers, with many showing up from the Catholic Church, the First Presbyterian Church and the Lutheran Church. By their third meeting, they had 28 volunteers. “We beat the bushes for folks who would agree to make monthly gifts to the new agency. I pushed to find 25 people who would pledge to give $25 a month to Habitat. If we could do that, we’d have at years’ end at least $7,500 to get the program started,” Warren wrote in his letter.

The Johnson’s efforts paid off, and Habitat for Humanity of Yaquina Bay was founded in May 1995. The initial board of directors, as listed on the Articles of Incorporation filed with the State of Oregon on May 26, 1995, included Warren and Linda Johnson and Walter and Margaret Roehmer. Six years later, in May 2001, the organization’s name was changed to Habitat for Humanity of Lincoln County. “I can’t tell you how happy Linda and I are that the program we started has built, since then, 14 homes in Lincoln County,” Warren wrote in 2018. Since then, two more homes have been completed and two more are in the permitting process.

Warren and Linda never lost their dedication to supporting affordable housing. Warren continued to make a monthly donation until his death earlier this month. Even then, his family continued their support by donating Warren’s vehicle through Habitat’s Cars for Homes program (https://www.habitat.org/support/donate-your-car).

A memorial service for Warren will be held at the First Presbyterian Church of Portland on June 20, at 1 p.m., with a reception to follow.

For more information or to help support the HFHLC mission, visit www.hfhlc.org or contact Lucinda Taylor at director@habitatlincoln.org or 541-351-8078.

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