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Jill Gretchen Johnson, former model, teacher from Locust Valley, dies at 59

Jill Gretchen Johnson, a former model who later

Jill Gretchen Johnson, a former model who later became a public schoolteacher, died Dec. 10, 2014, at her Locust Valley home. She was 59. Credit: Francesco Scavullo

Jill Gretchen Johnson, a former model who later became a public school teacher, died Dec. 10 at her Locust Valley home. She was 59.

Johnson, who was known professionally as Jillian Johnson, joined Zoli Models, based in New York City, and then later joined Ford Models Inc., where she worked until 2008, according to her sister, Susan Johnson Banta, and the Ford modeling agency.

For a time, Johnson also was a Breck Girl, part of an advertising campaign for Breck shampoo, said Banta, 60, who lives in Marin County, California.

Johnson was 6 feet tall, and some top modeling agencies in the 1970s felt she was a tad too tall and didn't sign her, but Zoli finally did, Banta said.

After her modeling career ended, Johnson taught at an elementary school in the Bronx for a year. She was forced to give it up after developing fibromyalgia, a painful condition that affects the muscles and soft tissue, her sister said.

Her family, which included five nieces and a nephew, remembered Johnson most for her sense of humor.

"She was well-liked, smart, and had a huge heart," Banta said. "And she was incredibly funny."

Johnson ended her life after a long battle with depression, her family said.

Born on Aug. 18, 1955, in Oceanside, Johnson and her family moved to Old Westbury when she was a toddler, Banta said. After Johnson graduated from Friends Academy in Locust Valley, she studied at New York University, where she earned her undergraduate degree in liberal arts and a master's degree in education, Banta said.

In addition to Banta, Johnson is survived by her mother, Evelyn Andersen Johnson, 91, of Locust Valley; and another sister, Kim Johnson Gross, 62, of Rye.

A memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at St. John's of Lattingtown Episcopal Church in Locust Valley.

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