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Evelyn Johnson, ex-PR director at Old Westbury Gardens, dies

Evelyn Johnson, who once hosted Ted Kennedy at

Evelyn Johnson, who once hosted Ted Kennedy at Old Westbury Gardens where she worked from 1961 until 2005, died on Nov. 15, 2016. The longtime Locust Valley resident was 93. Photo Credit: Family photo

Longtime Locust Valley resident Evelyn Johnson, who once hosted Ted Kennedy at Old Westbury Gardens, where she worked from 1961 until 2005, has died.

Johnson died Nov. 15 at the Sarah Neuman Center in Mamaroneck after a cardiopulmonary arrest, her family said. She was 93.

At Old Westbury Gardens, she worked as a board member and director of public relations and hosted the Massachusetts senator when he stepped in for Kennedy matriarch Rose Kennedy after she was unable to attend an event.

Johnson brought in roses to honor Rose Kennedy, according to daughter Susan Johnson Banta of Rye, in Westchester County. But after issues emerged with the flowers, Johnson went to the greenhouse and cut the buds from those flowers and placed them in the garden using wire.

She told Ted Kennedy about the situation while on a helicopter from LaGuardia Airport to Old Westbury Gardens.

“He laughed so hard it literally shook the helicopter,” Johnson Banta said.

In 2005, after developing dementia, Johnson stepped down from her role at the Gardens. She was named emeritus trustee at a ceremony covered by The New York Times.

Born in Bergen, Norway, on Oct. 21, 1923, Johnson immigrated to Brooklyn in 1930 to live with her father and stepmother.

“My mother was an immigrant,” Johnson Banta said. “She came from Norway during the height of the Depression and moved to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, to an area called Little Norway. For my mother to come from that life, which was very modest, to this really exalted position in society by giving and being generous is really beautiful.”

She married Glenn Dawson Johnson in 1953 and the couple moved to East Meadow the same year. Johnson moved to Locust Valley in 1979 after the death of her husband in 1977.

In Locust Valley, Johnson worked as a residential real estate agent at Piping Rock Associates. Around 1990, she began working at Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International, according to Locust Valley sales manager Bonnie Devendorf.

She is survived by another daughter, Kim Johnson Gross of the San Francisco Bay Area; a half-sister, Vicki Skeggs of Rome, Georgia; six grandchildren; and a great-grandson. She was also predeceased by daughter Jill Gretchen Johnson.

A service was held Nov. 19 at St. John’s of Lattingtown Church in Locust Valley. She was buried with her husband at Friends Quaker Cemetery in Westbury.


Evelyn Johnson married Glenn Dawson Johnson in 1951. In 1930, Evelyn Johnson lived with her mother and stepfather in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Susan Johnson Banta lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, and Kim Johnson Gross lives in upstate Rye.


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