Bettye Johnson, an award-winning local writer who helped found and facilitate the Yelm Writers’ Circle, died Dec. 7 at 90 years old.
Over the past few weeks, family, friends and fellow writers have been remembering Johnson and her work while reflecting on those she helped inspire.
Sara Steinberg, a local book editor and co-facilitator of the Yelm Writers’ Circle, said Johnson was a warm soul who invited anyone with a passion for writing into her circle.
“It didn’t matter if you were published or you were just writing in your diary, you were welcomed,” Steinberg said. “We even had people who would give presentations on typewriters … Anything that had to do with writing.”
Steinberg also noted that Johnson and her work served as inspiration to not only those local writers she helped educate on the art and business of writing, but also to the greater community.
“I’m a writer and I’m lost for words ... There are probably hundreds and hundreds of people who have followed their dreams because of Bettye. She’s an inspiration,” Steinberg said.
Johnson first began publishing her work through novels fairly late in her life.
At age 76, Johnson published her first novella, “A Christmas Awakening,” a heart-warming tale about looking past the woes of busy planning around Christmastime to find the true meaning of the holiday.
Just a year later, Johnson began work on her acclaimed “Mary Magdalene” series. The three books, published between 2006 and 2013, take a fictionalized look at the Biblical character. The collection of work earned her at least two Independent Publishers Book awards.
In a previous interview with the Nisqually Valley News on her third book in the series, Johnson said the Mary Magdalene series was inspired by a trip to Europe with students from the Ramtha School of Enlightenment, of which she was a longtime member. At that point, Johnson had written around six books and her work had been published in Italy and Germany.
Johnson was also recognized by the National Association of Professional Women and was named “Woman of the Year” in 2013-2014, according to Steinberg.
In a Facebook post, Johnson’s son Ken Brown wrote, “Bettye was an award-winning author with several of her books winning national acclaim. In her book; ‘Secrets of the Magdalene Scrolls,’ Bettye wrote a passage that stated that we are each on our journey, we are here to demonstrate and experience the wisdom of life. Bettye’s wisdom was passed down through her writings for all to experience.”
According to Steinberg and information from Johnson’s author profile on Amazon, Johnson has an interesting background worthy of a story on its own. Growing up in rural Texas, Johnson reportedly worked for the Foreign Service branch of the United States Department of State shortly after college.
“She was a fish out of water,” Steinberg said.
During her career in the federal government, Johnson lived in Paris and Tokyo and worked in a vast number of capacities.
Johnson is survived by her sons, Ken Brown and Mike Brown, and her granddaughter, Myriah Pearcey, Brown wrote.