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March 4, 1937 - Dec. 10, 2013

Raymond R. Johnson, an Amherst native, Lutheran minister and social worker who moved home after starting his career in New York City, died Tuesday in Harris Hill Nursing Facility, Clarence. He was 76.

Mr. Johnson dedicated his life to counseling children and adults in need after receiving a fellowship to earn his master’s degree in social work at Columbia University.

“His ministry then became really social work,” said the former Karin Meissner, his wife of 49 years.

While working for Lutheran Community Services in the late 1970s, he helped write a grant and found SNAP, or Services Now for Adult Persons, an agency in Queens serving the elderly, which now employs 40 people. For 12 years, Johnson was director of social services at Wartburg Lutheran Nursing Home in Brooklyn.

The couple returned to East Amherst in 1989, when Mrs. Johnson got a job teaching at Ledgeview Elementary School in Clarence.

Mr. Johnson began counseling for Catholic Charities, specializing in couples and families with problems, mostly in Cheektowaga.

After he retired in 2000, he worked with disabled children.

“He absolutely loved it. He was as happy as he could be. He really found a good way to end his working career,” his wife said.

“He exemplified the parable of the ‘Good Samaritan.’ ... If he heard a baby crying he had to go and see how he could help,” she said. “His social work extended beyond his profession. It was just part of his humanity.”

Mr. Johnson was passionate about composting and recycling, taking his sons out to collect glass and cans and then driving to turn them in at a recycling center. He also enjoyed hiking in the Grand Tetons, Rocky Mountain National Park and the Kanyoo Trail in the Town of Alabama.

The Johnsons launched a nature club at Amherst Lutheran Church.

“The idea was to enjoy God’s creation,” Mrs. Johnson said, “and just show that we wanted to preserve and protect wild areas.”

Other survivors include two sons, Raymond T. and Matthew L.; a sister, Elaine Cellino; and three grandchildren. Services were held in Amherst Lutheran Church.