Jean “JJ” Johnson, age 73 of Lynnville, passed away the morning of June 5, 2023. JJ was born on July 6, 1949, in Fergus Falls, MN, and was the third child of Ralph Woodrow Johnson and Evelyn Winnifred (Myron) Johnson.
Long before her graduation from Fergus Falls High School in 1967, Jean Johnson had a love of horses. At age 12 her dream of owning her own horse became a reality. In the early 1970s Johnson moved to Nashville, Tenn., where she was introduced to English riding and the game of polo. Through the training process of a homebred horse, she was introduced to a totally new world of equestrian endeavors, including three-day eventing, pony club, and fox hunting. JJ joined the eventing world as a rider and competitor with her beautiful palomino mare, Ahmirra, and later her lovely bay gelding, Jason. Her move to Nashville also led her to the love of her life, Haworth Parks, Sr., and their fairy tale romance began. Her significant other for 32 years, Haworth and JJ were dedicated members of Westminster Presbyterian Church where JJ sang in the choir and played hand bells for years.
When she "hung up her competition spurs,” she selflessly dedicated herself to volunteering and working for events throughout the Southeast and the East Coast in a variety of responsibilities and duties. She served as an official at many of the most prestigious competitions throughout the country. She was a member of the U.S.E.A. Board of Governors, served as the Radio Coordinator for the Rolex and Kentucky Three Day events at the Kentucky Horse Park for nearly thirty years, attended three Olympic Games either as an official or volunteer, and was an official at the World Equestrian Games in Lexington, KY in 2008. JJ served as the Area Ill Chair for six years and was awarded the Platinum Medal for more than 25 years of service as an organizer. Referred to as “the queen behind the scenes,” JJ's experience enabled her to fulfill many varied and important roles so that thousands of horses and riders could compete safely and efficiently wherever she was involved. She was a joy to work with and there was no task too small or detail too trivial to miss JJ's attention. She had a tremendous sense of humor, and her infectious smile and manner was characteristic of everything that she did.
JJ joined the Hillsboro Hounds hunt club in the mid 80’s and instantly brought a party to every hunt. She and her good friends were known as MFH Sid McAlisters “cartel”. She was awarded her colors in 1989 and truly earned them, including being left at a fall over a jump by her friends who decided “JJ wouldn’t want us to miss a good run.” They heard about that! She organized hunter paces, terrier races, & games for HH and each of these had a special element of fun brought by her. JJ was also head field master for many years and led a flight along with herding all the flights into place. Again, her own special brand of happy added to every hunt. When she retired from riding to hounds, she became an honorary car whip and continued to help out in this way.
Just as JJ liked to ride in 3 Day Events and enjoyed foxhunting, she also loved sharing her love of the sports with young riders in our area. From 1986-1989 JJ served as the Joint District Commissioner of Middle Tennessee Pony Club. Even after her terms as Jt DC, she continued to organize camps, rallies, lessons and gymkana competitons. As a natural leader, she volunteered as the organizer of the MTPC Horse Trials in 1986 and every year since. Her steadfast dedication to MTPC Horse Trials kept it running successfully so that it is still the longest continually running horse trials in the United States. Her passion for the sport and the MTPC Horse Trials are unmatched. She thrived when coordinating anything that involved having fun with horses. The Year-End parties that she organized were known for including every member with some sort of award.
Twenty-two years ago JJ became a 13-acre landowner and built a horse barn with an apartment in Lynnville’s beautiful hunt country. What was meant to be a weekend getaway quickly became a permanent residence. Her contributions and dedication to the sport of eventing and her remarkable attitude will be missed throughout the equestrian community. She will be missed by those who have loved her and benefitted from her life and dedication.
JJ was preceded in death by her parents Ralph Johnson and Evelyn Johnson, her brother, Myron Johnson, Haworth Houston Parks Sr.and is survived by her sister, Ann Arnold, a daughter, Kris Soderberg, two grandsons, Zachary Soderberg and Nicholas Soderberg, her sister-in-law Norma Johnson, two nephews, Brent Johnson and Tyler Johnson.