Sara Rardin Johnson

June 2, 1944June 9, 2019

Sara R. Johnson died June 9, 2019 at Richland Hospital in Columbia, South Carolina. She was 75.

Sara was born June 2, 1944 in Marysville, Ohio. Christened Sara Austin Rardin she was the daughter of Jared J. Rardin and Ruth Elizabeth Ferguson (“REF”) Rardin. She was the step-daughter of Beverly D. Horr.

Sara attended Portsmouth High School, class of 1962, where she initiated an interest in the visual arts, which would become a motivating passion of her life. She graduated cum laude from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1966. At OWU she was president of Kappa Kappa Gamma Sorority.

Sara married C. Clayton Johnson August 6, 1966. She supported her husband’s education first as a secretary at the Mental Health Clinic of the University of Virginia, then by teaching junior high school English at Dundee, Michigan.

Returning to Portsmouth, Ohio in 1970, Sara founded a volunteer program to teach art in the public schools, and in 1976 was instrumental in the founding of the Southern Ohio Museum. She became the Museum’s first curator of education, and went on to serve as its Co-Director or Director for twenty-five years. She directed the Museum’s acquisition of its three main permanent collections; the Ackerman collection of historical photographs, the Wertz collection of Native American artifacts, and the master works of Portsmouth native, Clarence Carter, now displayed in the “Sara Johnson Gallery” which was named in her honor on the occasion of her retirement.

In 1980 Sara was chosen to be an official representative of the City of Portsmouth and successfully presented the city’s case in winning designation as an “All American City” in competition at Detroit.

She is survived by her husband, Clay, her daughter, Sara Elizabeth Johnson and her husband Brock Shorno, both of Los Angeles, a son Jared Clayton Johnson and his wife, Erin Latting Spelman Johnson, both of Columbia, South Carolina, and two grandsons, Samuel Latting Johnson and Clayton Charles Spelman Johnson.

A celebration of Sara’s life will be held in Portsmouth, Ohio on Saturday, June 15 at 11am at Second Presbyterian Church, after which there will be a reception at the Southern Ohio Museum.

The family’s favorite charity is the Southern Ohio Museum, P.O. Box 990, Portsmouth, OH 45662.


No services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.


Sara Rardin Johnson

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Mary Alice Wilson

June 17, 2019

I am so sorry, Clay. You and all your family had the blessing of enjoying life with a great lady. Sara was so gracious, talented, intelligent, and strong. I remember how the two of you did not panic but became so very helpful when we were surrounded by the sea fog off Marco Island. Quite an adventure! You will be in my thoughts and prayers as your loss becomes a reality you face each day. My hope is that many wonderful memories will comfort you.
My condolence, Mary Alice Wilson

Don and p eggy Yuenger

June 13, 2019

Our sympathy to you and your family

Carl Daehler

June 13, 2019

Lynne and I are sorry to hear about the passing of Sara Rardin Johnson. Her inspiration and leadership in the arts in Portsmouth meant a lot to us and to all residents of southern Ohio. Her legacy will live on through her work at the Southern Ohio Museum. Our best wishes for Clay, Liza, and Jerod during this difficult time.

Carl and Lynne Daehler