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2017 State Champions: Cathy Johnson sits at the far right in the front row. Cathy's Facebook photo2018 Sectional Champions: Connie Lawson is second from right.

Editor’s note: The following story and elegy was submitted by Connie Lawson, a player on the 2018 Southern Mixed 40 & Over 8.0 champion team from Albany, GA. 

At 9:30 a.m. on Oct. 18 (exactly one year ago), I received word that my tennis roommate and dear friend, Cathy Johnson, had been killed in her UPS truck.  We had JUST returned 10 days earlier from Little Rock.  Our tennis community was devastated. Cathy had been a very active USTA member for well over 30 years, and had a love for the game like no other.

During this year, not one day has passed where she was not remembered. Every time we would play tennis, at our local club, she was ALWAYS mentioned. We hosted a tennis memorial in her honor, last year, and will host an annual tennis event “The Johnson Jam” every year! That’s how big of an influence she was in our local tennis community.  

Fast forward to October 2018 and, as our town was preparing for it’s third natural disaster in 22 months, we decided to head on to Little Rock. With our families support we headed out leaving them to weather Hurricane Michael, without us.  We were on a mission to WIN sectionals in her honor … AND WE DID!

These are the words I wrote and spoke at her funeral.

Cathy was my friend and my tennis buddy… we traveled together, won together, lost together and laughed ‘til we cried together.  She was THE most positive person you could meet.

I KNOW there are people in this room that have known her MUCH longer than I, but that’s the thing I loved most about her.. you didn’t have to know her long, to know her. Her transparency was SO refreshing.  If you spent ONE hour with Cathy, you knew her.  You knew she loved people, loved life, worked hard and was just the salt of the earth.. She also LOVED neon … when she wasn’t wearing brown..

I have many Cathy Johnson memories, that I’ll treasure in my heart FOREVER … but I’ll share this one with you.  About two weeks ago, prior to traveling to Little Rock for tennis, we met up at Darton [currently Albany State University] around 8 p.m., after she had worked hard all day long, to hit some tennis balls. As we were hitting I said, “Cathy, I just really need to work on my forehand”… to which she replied, “Connie, there’s NOTHING wrong with your forehand, just PLANT YOUR FEET AND SWING!” It was like a light bulb went off … it worked and helped my forehand a good bit.

Fast forward to Wednesday, Oct. 18, when I got word my friend was gone … she had passed … as I sat in my office and SOBBED … it’s like I felt lean down and say, “That’s life girl … don’t you worry about me … just PLANT YOUR FEET AND SWING!” 

To her family … my heart breaks for you … but this I know … she would not be OK with you grieving for too long … she would never give you permission to sit down in your sorrow, or stop living through the struggle … she would say, “PLANT YOUR FEET AND SWING!” Go live your life and love your people!

I pray that some how this will make you stronger, as a family, than ever before … and we as her friends, would love each other and cherish each other more than ever before … I think that’s the BEST way to honor her for the rest of our lives!  She will be missed, and I’ll never look at a set of blue eyes with out thinking of her … she was a BEAUTY!