James Patterson "Pete" Johnson Jr., 91, of Benton, passed away peacefully in his sleep Saturday, March 2.
As a faithful Christian and lifelong Democrat, he was known to many as an All-State basketball player, tomato farmer, milk man, horseman, restaurant owner, cattle rancher and company fleet manager.
He was born Nov. 26, 1921, in Jersey, to a Methodist family that included eight siblings. He was raised on a large tomato farm in Bradley County and was an All-State high school basketball player. After marrying the love of his life, Beth Armstrong, they moved to San Francisco where he served in the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II.
After the great war, they settled down in Southwest Little Rock, where he took a job as a milk man for Borden Dairy. While raising their only son, Jamey, they moved to Benton where he picked up his love of horses and later opened up one of the first restaurants in the growing town, serving up Johnson family recipe staples such as fried catfish and home-grown tomatoes.
With wife Beth, working the cash register while he tended to the kitchen, they made a great team. With Beth's impending blindness, he wanted a simpler life for her, so he purchased a cattle ranch outside Hot Springs, along with a rifle, on a whim from a restaurant customer, and moved there for over a decade. After having grandchildren, he and Beth moved back to Benton to be closer to them, where they were members of First Baptist Church and he took a job at a growing heating and air conditioning company called Middleton. After retiring in 2002, he was the sole caretaker for Beth and spent his spare time growing tomatoes, trail riding and cheering on the Razorbacks and St. Louis Cardinals.
In 2011, he was featured as the KATV Person of the Week for his family's efforts in establishing the tomato industry in Arkansas. Pete was a long-time member of the Ventures Sunday School Class at First Baptist Church.
Pete was preceded in death by his wife of 65 years, Bethel Armstrong Johnson, in 2008; his parents, James Patterson Johnson Sr. and Annie Irene Anders; his brothers, Joe, Sam, Carl, Jesse and Rob; and a sister, Mable.
He is survived by his son, Jamey Armstrong Johnson of Bryant; two grandsons, Jordan Patterson Johnson Sr. and wife Angie of Little Rock and Jarrod Armstrong Johnson of Little Rock; two great-grandsons, Jordan Patterson Jr. and Keeton Myers; and one great-granddaughter, Staley Catherine; his sisters Francis "Hank" Holderfield of Hot Springs and Mary Lee of North Little Rock.
Funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday, March 6, at Roller-Ballard Funeral Home in Benton with Dr. Richard Grant officiating. Burial will follow at Forest Hills Memorial Park in Alexander.
Visitation is set from 6 to 8 p.m.Tuesday, March 5, at the funeral home.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to First Baptist Church of Benton, 211 S. Market St., Benton, AR 72015.
Online guestbook: www.rollerfuneralhomes.com/ballard .