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Tuesday, Sep 02, 2014
Plant City Courier

Class of ‘46 donation dedicated to matriarch of family of restaurateurs

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Published:   |   Updated: April 9, 2014 at 12:52 PM

PLANT CITY Children have a treasure chest full of toys to keep them occupied at Bruton Memorial Library, thanks to the generosity of the Plant City High School’s class of 1946.

The surviving graduates are all in their 80s, but agreed to help youngsters when they decided in February to pool their money and donate to a worthy cause.

They dedicated the “Box of Wonders” in honor of one of their classmates, Evelyn Johnson. Johnson, matriarch of a family of restaurateurs, has been a gracious hostess for meetings of the class of 1946 for many years.

“She is the one who kept us fed,” classmate B.M. “Mac” Smith Jr. said. “She always took great care of us.”

Children’s Librarian Kate Chang said a toy chest had long been on her wish list. Library Director Anne Haywood said the box will have a rotating collection of puppets, props, costumes and other toys.

Johnson, 86, said she was humbled that her classmates chose to make the donation in her name.

“I feel honored and surprised,” said Johnson, who was accompanied to Tuesday’s dedication by several family members.

Johnson and her late husband Elton founded Johnson’s Restaurant in the 1950s. Their sons, Buddy and Fred, owned and operated BuddyFreddys for many years and Fred and other family members continue to own restaurants, including Fred’s Market Restaurants.

About 100 students were in the class that graduated in 1946. World War II ended in 1945, but the war shaped the class, with some leaving early to join the military and others joining after graduation, said Robert Parker, a veteran and retired FBI agent.

The class started getting together about 40 years ago, first at periodic reunions and for the last two decades, once a month for lunch.

About 60 members of the class survive, including 10-20 who regularly make the monthly luncheons. The meals, are noon the first Tuesday monthly at ABC Pizza in Plant City; graduates from the classes of 1945 and 1947 are also welcome, Smith said.

Seven of the classmates were at Bruton Memorial Library for last week’s donation, including Walter Busk, a member of the class of ‘45.

Several graduates have helped the class in many ways, but it was an easy choice to pay tribute to Johnson, Smith said.

“She never wants recognition for anything, she always works behind the scenes,” he said. “Well this is her turn.”

Twitter: @dnicholsonTBO

dnicholson@tampatrib.com

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