News From Terre Haute, Indiana

July 23, 2013

About 70 family, friends celebrate Johnson’s life

Dustyn Fatheree
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Friends, family and supporters gathered at the Ribbon of Hope outside of City Hall in remembrance of Morgan Johnson’s life Monday night.

Candles lit up the sky as around 70 people shared and listened to stories about Johnson.

“It is absolutely amazing that this many people still care and will continue to care about Morgan,” said Gloria Jones, the event coordinator. “I wish Ann [Johnson’s mother] could have been here to share, but I understand she is still dealing with the news.”

The two-year search for Johnson concluded on Saturday after a coroner positively identified the body in a white 1995 Pontiac Grand Am as Johnson’s. Police said the coroner used dental records and recovered Johnson’s driver’s license from the car.

 The vehicle was recovered from the deep end of a shallow retention pond less than a mile away from the motel he was staying at in Plainfield.

The vigil began with an opening prayer and continued with friends of Johnson reminiscing.

Marcus Williams said he became friends with Johnson in middle school after playing a physical one-on-one basketball game. After the mutual respect had been established, they became best friends.

“It is hard to imagine now that he is not here,” he said while speaking at the vigil. “Until you lose someone close to you, you don’t realize what you lost.”

Jermaine Williams, Marcus’ brother and also Johnson’s friend, said he [Johnson] would want the people close to him to celebrate his life and be happy.

Stories with a more colorful twist were even shared at the vigil.

“Morgan and I snuck away during an intermission at play practice and he had me listen to a CD,” said Amber Stewart, Johnson’s friend. “He leaned in to kiss me and I will always remember him as my first kiss. I love him and his family, and I will continue to do so until the day I die.”

A group of teachers who taught Johnson in middle school attended and brought a little piece of history with them.

Rick Petty, Johnson’s coach at Chauncey Rose  middle school, found a hunk of gym floor with a picture of Johnson’s seventh-grade team on it in his garage.  

“This wood is the same wood that he played on before the floor was destroyed,” he said.

Johnson and his seventh-grade team went undefeated to win the county championship in 1996.

“He always had a smile on his face,” Johnson added. “All around, he was a great kid.”

No official cause of death has been announced at this time.

Reporter Dustyn Fatheree can be reached at 812-231-4255 and dustyn.fatheree@tribstar.com.