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Charlene B. Johnston
March 6, 1933 ~ January 13, 2024 (age 90) 90 Years Old
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Charlene Beatrice Johnston, age 90, passed away peacefully Saturday, January 13, 2024 due to an aortic aneurysm and congestive heart failure. She was born March 6, 1933 in the Borough of Manhattan, New York City, New York to Louis Batson and Rosenda Segundo Batson. Throughout her lifetime, Charlene was immensely proud of, and maintained strong ties with her Bajan and Puerto Rican parental roots and spent much time throughout the Islands. Charlene was preceded in death by her husband Wallace Odell Johnston. Wallace was a mechanical engineer in New York City and owned his own engineering business. He was a United States Air Force veteran.
Charlene attended public schools in New York City and after graduating from Walton High School, Charlene married John (Dilly) William Cunningham, who also preceded her in death. From this union Dilly and Charlene had two beautiful children, Leana Yvonne Cunningham (McNealy) and Glen Batson Cunningham. John was also a United States Air Force veteran.
During her early working years Charlene worked as a model, interior decorator, and did commercials for Northeast (Yellow Bird) Airlines. During this time and some years later, Charlene married her second husband Leroy Carmichael, who also preceded her in death, a hospital administrator for the five boroughs of New York City and a restaurant owner (Carmichael’s) in Queens, New York City. During her marriage to Leroy, Charlene attended New York University and received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education. She loved to engage in political and civil rights activities. She loved to love people. You would always find her engaged in community and civil rights activities. She always wanted to do what was right and what was good and to be kind and help others. Many of her community activities were in coordination with her best friend Irving Louis Burgie (Lord Burgess), regarded as one of the greatest composers of Caribbean music. He composed thirty-four songs for Harry Belafonte, including the song “Day-O” and eight of the eleven songs on the Belafonte album Calypso (1956), the first album of any kind to sell one million copies. Burgie also wrote the lyrics of the National Anthem of Barbados. She belonged to the Coalition for Political Representation (CPR) and Camp Minisink in Port Jervis, New York. She was also a dance partner with Ester Rolle of “Good Times.”
After her marriage to Carmichel did not work out Charlene moved to Northen Virginia where she attended Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Virginia. At Virginia Tech Charlene received her Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in Technical Education.
After graduation Charlene joined the faculty of Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) in the Dental Hygiene program of study. At this time, she reconnected with her childhood friend and Junior-Senior Prom date Wallace Odell Johnston. Charlene became Department Chair of the NOVA Community College Dental Hygiene Department and remained at NOVA until her retirement. Charlene’s students and other young people expressed great admiration for her as a role model and advisor.
After her retirement Charlene married Wallace and they moved to Spring Hill, Florida in 1993 and lived very happily until Wallace’s death in 2012. Charlene also encouraged her first cousin and best friend Judith Coyners Woodson to move to Spring Hill where their relationship was and still was like siblings instead of cousins. Judy’s mother Lucia and Charlene’s mother Rosenda were twins.
Here in Spring Hill Charlene engaged in various activities. She was a member of the Hernando County Health Department Board of Directors, Hernando County Jazz Club, The African American Club of Hernando County, The Hernando County Music Club and a member of Antioch Fellowship Baptist Church.
Charlene is survived by her daughter Leana McNealy (Jerome), son Glen Cunningham (Sharon), first cousin Judy Woodson (Fred), three grandchildren (Lenice, Sej and Blair) and three great grandchildren (Isis, Sakai, and Katorie).
Chalene had one sister Yvonne Batson (Vonnie) who preceded her in death.