Rehabilitation counselor, poet and photographer Beth Johnson passes

Beth-Johnson-portrait, Rehabilitation counselor, poet and photographer Beth Johnson passes, Culture Currents Local News & Views
Beth lived life on her own terms, full of love and adventure, and nothing could equal her presence.

by Sumiko Saulson

Beth Allegra Johnson, 54, of Barstow, Calif., known to her friends as Delirium?, died in a car accident at a mile marker four miles from her home in the early morning of Monday, June 27, 2022. Beth, a longtime resident of the Bayview community, had returned to Barstow to care for her ailing parents. 

Before moving to the Bayview, Beth lived in the Haight. She was a San Francisco Bay Area resident for most of her adult life, helping many in her role as an addiction recovery counselor over the years.

Beth was born on Jan. 24, 1968, in Orange County, Calif. She was predeceased by her mother, Sally Beth Johnson, her beloved dog Jackie (former pet of Jane “Bud Fairy”) and cat Tom. She is survived by her father Dwight Johnson, sisters Wendy Johnson Niblick and Robin Johnson Zableckis, and nieces and nephews John, Sam, Andrew and Lauren, as well as her beloved pet dog Josie and her father’s cats Bert and Ernie. She had close friends who she considered family and lists Slack Christpuncher and Rabbit Peeples as her brothers on Facebook and Catyanna Amelie Pfeiffer as her sibling.

Beth went to grammar school in Ventura, Calif., where, with her sisters, she won ribbons in 4H by raising rabbits and entering baked goods into contests at the Ventura County Fair. At age 12, her family moved to Barstow, Calif. Beth attended Barstow High School where she played the flute and was in the marching band. 

She was an honor student who took AP classes and graduated valedictorian. She was involved in California’s mock government and traveled to Sacramento as a representative. High school friends describe her as a quiet and sweet girl who was a great friend to those she trusted. 

Beth blossomed into a free-spirited young woman who loved life; an adventurer, she traveled to the United Kingdom and participated in the AFS Summer 1985 program in Argentina, where she stayed with a family in Buenos Aires. She became involved with AFS a few years earlier when her family hosted a young woman from Peru. She attended Bakersfield State University before transferring to San Francisco State University to study photography and learn Spanish.

She made San Francisco her home for the next 25 years. Professionally, she was a care worker, giving devoted and loving care to those who were sick, giving back to the community by working with addicts in recovery programs and teaching courses on harm reduction. 

Her dedication to caregiving extended to her own family, and she returned to Barstow to care for her ailing parents during the last five years of her life. She still considered San Francisco her home and always intended to return to the Bay Area and buy an apartment building with the proceeds from the estate of her grandparents Hazel and Ronald Brown, noted 1960s and ‘70s Southwest wood artists carving mostly birds and training others in their new modernistic style.

Loved by all who knew her, she was there for the underdog and saw and brought out the best in people.

Artistic talent ran in the family. Beth manifested both technical skill and boundless creativity. She wrote heart-rending poetry and was a kinetic sight to behold on the dancefloor, known for her eclectic taste in music and eye-catching iconic punk-rock and gothic fashion.

Beth was a doting and loving fur mama to her fur babies and was adored for her dedication to her vast gamut of friends and their children. She cultivated deep connections with the people in her life and enabled the multitude who knew her to laugh (or cry) at all the beautiful stories she shared and her gifted poetry. 

She had a vibrant personality and often provided support to friends in need of someone stable upon which they could rely. Beth was magnanimous, egalitarian and an admired role model to many.

Beth lived life on her own terms, full of love and adventure, and nothing could equal her presence. She was smart, sexy, funny, quirky, loving, witty, loyal and one of the kindest, most caring people. Her laugh was like the release of a tennis ball machine, or the sound of a zippo lighter being lit over and over again. 

Loved by all who knew her, she was there for the underdog, and if you needed a hand with something you could count on her to help in any way. She was a sparkling conversationalist and saw and brought out the best in people. When Beth decided on something, her inner strength made it a reality. Beth was incredible in how she carved out her world to her design, and because of this, there is no replacing her. 

A memorial gathering was held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022, at Duboce Park in San Francisco, followed by a wake at Beth’s long cherished SFNet haunt Noc Noc Bar in the Lower Haight Ashbury in San Francisco, where Beth was reborn and lived her real life, unapologetically – fortunately for all of us who lived it with her here. The world is a darker place without her in it.

Bestselling author Sumiko Saulson (they/them or ze/hir) writes award-winning multicultural sci-fi, fantasy, horror and Afrosurrealism. Their latest novel, “Happiness and Other Diseases,” is available on Mocha Memoirs Press. Winner of the 2021 Horror Writers Association Richard Laymon Presidents Award, 2017 Afrosurrealist Writer’s Award, 2016 HWA Scholarship from Hell, and 2016 BCC Voice Reframing the Other Award, their monthly series Writing While Black follows the struggles of Black writers in the literary arts and other segments of arts and entertainment. Support them on Patreon and follow them on Twitter and Facebook.