Johnnie Roberts Keith, was born in La Mesa, Texas, December 7, 1924. At the age of five she, along with her father Francis Marion Roberts, mother, Rena Wheeler Roberts and four older sisters, Willma (Billie), Jimmie, Jesse and Irene, landed in Corcoran, California, and lived on the Taylor Ranch near Angiola/Alpaugh area. Eventually, they moved into Corcoran where her father worked as the custodian for Corcoran High School and later on, her mother boarded teachers in their home.
Johnnie played the clarinet and the drums in the school band. A gifted musician, but with little formal training, as an adult became the church pianist at the Assemblies of God Church in Corcoran. She worked as a bookkeeper for the J.G. Boswell Company at the feedlot offices where she met Don Edward Keith. They married in 1947 and together they raised five children Edward Fulton, Chan Craig, Robert Kenworth, William Fred and Rena Dawne. They were married for 53 years until his death in 2000.
Johnnie was the consummate homemaker, excelling at creating a warm and secure environment for not only her family, but for the many house guests they welcomed over the years. Everyone that sat at her table went away full of homemade goodness and memories of her berry cobblers, coconut cream pies, biscuits and gravy, beans and cornbread and fried okra. Her love language was feeding people and she never flinched at a large gathering. She just opened another jar of home canned greens beans that she put up every year. In the summer, her kitchen became a production stage of pressure canners as she canned usually 50-100 quarts of green beans brought by the crate in the truck of her car from the coast.
Family roots and childhood friends were important to her as later in life she began to help plan school reunions along with her school chums and held in the home of Fred Salyer. She also held reunions at their Bass Lake cabin of childhood friends from her years of growing up in the church she attended. Johnnie’s love of fun and mischief would shine at these gatherings as she delighted in bringing laughter and sometimes healing to broken relationships left unattended for years.
She explored her family roots, making several trips back to the Fourche Valley in Arkansas from where her parents had come. In 1973, she and Don moved to Bakersfield following the business the oil shortage had created. First Assembly of God Church of Bakersfield became her church home until her death, at age 93, on September 11, 2018. Johnnie died in the peace, the trust, and the all sufficient merits of the Lord’s finished work on the cross of Calvary. His perfect life, atoning death and resurrection from the dead saved her and brought her joyfully to life everlasting.
She will be missed greatly by all her family and friends here on earth, but is now celebrating in heaven with multitudes of friends and family that have gone on before!
Memorial service was held at Bakersfield First Assembly of God Church, 4701 California Avenue, Bakersfield CA on October 1st at 11:00 AM. In lieu of flowers please send donations to Kern County Teen Challenge 301 E. Roberts Lane, Bakersfield CA 93308 or Hope for Honduras 1864 Vineyard Dr., Paradise CA 95969.
A Celebration of Life will be held Thursday, October 5 at 1 p.m. at Salser and Dillard Funeral Home in Visalia for Robert (Bobby) “Big Rob” Atilano, 52, who died September 13, 2023 in Visalia. Bobby worked for The Corcoran Journal for nearly 25 years as the Display...