In a family of 13 siblings the older tend to help raise the younger. On September 4th, my mentor, friend, caretaker and sister, Theresa, passed after a battle with cancer. I am profoundly grateful for the compassion she shared with me and everyone she touched.
Theresa took the Mejía education mantra very seriously, working her way through college, as first in the family to receive her PhD, and mentoring underserved students in the Cleveland public school system.
Theresa is usually described as a gentle soul but I also know her as a fierce 5-time marathoner and a fighter for civil rights and justice. Through her work in Human Resources, she encountered difficult challenges as most women of color do. Theresa was adept at turning those moments into teaching opportunities.
If life can be measured by those who you help along the way, Theresa’s was not only abundant but overflowing – constantly surrounded by thankful schoolchildren in Denver, Boulder or Cleveland. She developed training programs in diversity and taught classes to professionals without judgement but with patience and understanding.
Toward the end of her life, she asked me a favor – to drive her to a local elementary school to refill the library she created at a local public school. She gave in her final days and then a little bit more. Not surprisingly, Theresa was an organ donor – even in death she gave what she could to ensure a better life for someone else. That selfless act embodies the spirit of Dr. Theresa Mejia Johnson.
Through her patient modeling, her spirit and acts of kindness live on through her loving husband, Greg Johnson, 12 siblings, parents, children and grandchildren. Though her body failed her, her spirit never did. She will always be remembered as a giving presence and an advocate for the underdog.