Former Oneonta Autumn Cafe Owner Dies at 69
Tim Johnson was a beloved husband, father, grandfather, and former longtime owner of the Autumn Cafe, a restaurant on Oneonta's Main St. He passed away on Jan. 3, 2020.
Tim was born on Jan. 31, 1950, in Jamaica, Queens, and grew up on Long Island. He moved to Oneonta in 1968 to attend SUNY Oneonta. While in college, Tim was on the track team, and in particular loved running hurdles. He also met his best friends, including Rob Klein, Brian Powers and Andy Resney.
In 1970, Tim was among students who camped out in front of the SUCO administration building for 2-3 days. This was done in support of students who had taken over the building to protest Nixon authorizing U.S. attacks on Cambodia.
While in college, Tim was involved in Student Senate, Men’s Glee Club, cross-country track, and was a student cafeteria worker and resident adviser for many years.
As a senior, Tim met his future wife, Nancy (Plaag) Johnson. They were married in Patterson, Putnam County, in 1974. After marrying, the two traveled around the country by van. They stopped and worked odd jobs and made many new friends along the way. Tim was a collector of unusual jobs over the years and loved to tell stories about his experiences while working and traveling. These jobs included working as a door-to-door dictionary salesman, barker at carnivals, branch manager for apple orchards, factory worker, furniture mover and truck driver, track man on the D&H railroad, and an orderly at a psychiatric hospital.
One of Tim’s favorite jobs to tell stories about was when he worked as a chauffeur for E. Roland Harriman. He often talked about his memories of driving Mrs. Harriman into New York City to get her hair cut, helping and talking with Mr. Harriman, and about living in the chauffeur’s cottage with his wife.
Working for the Harriman family allowed Tim to save money, which helped fund his dream of self-employment. In December 1980, Tim, along with six others, including Andy Resney, Emily (Shaugnassy) Roberts and Nancy Johnson, opened The Autumn Cafe in Oneonta. Throughout the 37 years he co-owned The Autumn Cafe, Tim could be found in his basement office placing orders, cooking in the kitchen, and having long conversations with his many dear friends, loyal customers, and devoted employees. Tim helped to create the warm and welcoming atmosphere The Autumn Cafe is known for by finding and fostering local musical talent and organizing various community events in the restaurant.
Once Tim settled in Oneonta, he became involved in many community affairs, including playing on an adult volleyball team sponsored by The Autumn Cafe, helping to get a skate park built, and numerous downtown revitalization initiatives. Tim, had a near encyclopedic knowledge of the Yankees, loved to stay up on current events, read the newspaper, listen to music, and spend time with his family, especially his granddaughter, Zoë.
Tim’s genuine interest in every person he met set him apart as someone who cared deeply and treated everyone with respect. A friend recently told his family “If the life of one person can be measured by the friends they made along the way and the deeds they did for the area they lived in, then surely Tim’s commitment to that end speaks volumes.” His smile and ease at conversation will be missed by those that loved him.
Tim was predeceased by his father, Fred Johnson, and mother, Mary Virginia Johnson. He is survived by his wife, Nancy (Plaag) Johnson; son, Eric Johnson; daughter, Carlena Johnson; son-in-law, Thomas Crabtree; granddaughter, Zoë Crabtree; brothers, Mitch Johnson (Victoria) of Vero Beach, FL and Fred “Kip” Johnson (Diane) of Fort Mill, SC; sister, Ginger (Johnson) Dayon of Wyoming, R.I., and five nieces and a nephew.
A memorial gathering will be held at Wise Guys Sammy’s, 261 Main St, Oneonta, at 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 19. (MLK weekend). In lieu of flowers, Tim requested that donations be made to the Greater Oneonta Historical Society, PO Box 814, Oneonta, NY 13820.
Expressions of sympathy may be on the website of Lewis, Hurley & Pietrobono Funeral Home, 51 Dietz St., Oneonta; www.lhpfuneralhome.com
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