By Ellen Ratner, ,
Published May 07, 2015
There are often people who inspire you, who you read about, but seldom do you know them.
I have been inspired by Peter Johnson, Sr. He died last week at the age of 91. He is the father of Peter Johnson Jr. who many know from Fox News Channel.
I first met Peter Johnson at his family Christmas party where he invited people from all walks of life. People who had been helped pro bono from his law firm to mayors and Cardinals. Peter didn't care what status in life you held he cared that you were a good person and you helped others.
He had an amazing life story that makes my head shake in wonder. He grew up in a tenement,one of ten children. Four of those children were orphans taken in by Peter's parents.
His father died when he was 17 years old, and he went to work as a longshoreman to provide for his mother and siblings. He had already been accepted to the Naval Academy but stayed home out of duty and worked. By attending college at night he became a police officer, and then enlisted in the Marine Corps.
He led a platoon to Iwo Jima and was seriously wounded. The doctors wanted to amputate his arm but he said no and fought on, spending a year in military hospitals.
He came home, resumed his career as a police officer and then went to law school at night. He always ran towards doing what was right, not away from it.
Peter did not just become a high priced New York attorney, he fought for real justice. He is known for working to end organized crime and obtaining health benefits for dock workers.
Attend one of the Johnson family Christmas parties and you will find people sitting at the table next to you telling a story about how they were helped by Peter Johnson. No one was two small or too big to get Peter's brilliant courtroom help.
Sometimes circumstances make the man. Peter's is an example of taking those circumstances and building his character around it.
Sent to collect his father's last paycheck, the corrupt union official did not want to give it to him. Peter used his innate oratory and persuasion skills and got the check and then some. He was only 17, but it taught him a life time of fighting for justice.
Sometimes, people are good but it does not translate to others in a family. I've known the Johnson family for fifteen years. Along with his amazing wife, Veronica, they inspired their children and grandchildren to be just as generous as they are. The apple did not fall far from Peter's tree.
Cardinal Egan, gave the euology for Peter Johnson Sr. He quoted from Psalm 57 and said "his heart is steadfast."
I can only hope that my heart will be just a sliver of Peter Johnson's and that his life will continue to inspire others to be as steadfast as he was.