Celebrating Mrs. Johnson

Mrs. Marion Johnson is a very vibrant and alive ninety-one year old.

Every day for the last fifty-five years, she has greeted customers at the legendary Penrose Fish and Chips shop on Mount Pleasant Road near my studio which she manages with her sons.

Today, I stopped by to say hello to Mrs. Johnson and she dashed to the counter to greet me. These days, business is booming at Penrose. For ten dollars, one can feast on perfectly-fried halibut with freshly cut french fries- the best in town. The place was full and Mrs. Johnson said appreciatively that business has never been better as people revert to simple, inexpensive eating to feed their families.

One evening not long ago, Barbara Streisand's entourage stopped by to pick up for take-out. The following night at her sold-out concert, she dropped mention of Penrose Fish and Chips, telling a packed house of 20,000 that she hasn't had better. That couldn't have hurt sales.

I invited Mrs. Johnson into the studio about two years ago to have her portrait taken. A few months later, she would discretely walk by the studio window to check herself out on display, too embarrassed to draw much attention to herself but curious to see how she looked all the same.

Mrs. Johnson told me how she had grown up, on a farm in rural Southern Ontario with her large family of eight brothers and sisters. Everyone looked out for one other, she said, and with a big sigh looked at me and said, "Oh, times have changed..." Yes they have, Mrs. Johnson. But let's not reflect on that but instead celebrate a life well lived and deserved right here on Mount Pleasant Road.