GAITHERSBURG, Md. — Friends and family of Navy Yard shooting victim John Johnson remembered him Tuesday as a religious family man known for his infectious smile and firm bear hugs.
His was one of four funerals held for victims of the Sept. 16 massacre at the Washington Navy Yard.
Mourners who attended Johnson’s crowded funeral at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church said the warm recollections of an affable and optimistic family man underscored the tragedy of the shooting that killed 13 last week, including the gunman.
“It was just sad that, you know, a good man like this was taken away,” said Melvin David, a family friend from Glenwood. “It was absolutely a senseless act.”
Some mourners walked away from the service with thoughts that more must be done to tighten gun laws.
“You just pray and just say: God, we just hope that things like this are, you know, dealt with and gun control and taking away the guns off the street and the senseless tragedies will stop,” said Timothy Anderson, a family friend from Mitchellville.
Tony Zagami, Johnson’s son-in-law, described in a eulogy how Johnson, 73, visited him in the hospital after he had brain surgery in August.
“In many ways, he sustained me with those visits and hastened my recovery,” Zagami wrote in the eulogy, which was read in church by his son, Dino. “That’s the kind of person he was.”
Jason Woodward, another son-in-law, noted Johnson’s three passions: fishing, faith and family.
“He was a man who would light up any room he walked into with his infectious smile, boisterous greetings that usually came with him giving you a nickname such as ‘Buddy,’ or ‘You Old Buzzard,’ a slap on the back and real firm handshake.”
Bob Coyne described his friend of 20 years as the most kind and gentle man he had ever met.
“If you ever just wanted to see an example of somebody who literally accepts people where they are all the time, it was John Johnson,” Coyne said.
In Dale City, Va., Tuesday evening, several hundred friends and family, many in Navy uniforms, gathered to remember Kathleen Gaarde, 62, of Woodbridge, who worked at the Navy Yard as a financial analyst.
Her daughter, Jessica Gaarde, said her mom would have been surprised by the outpouring of support and disapproved of any fuss being made over her.
“She touched a lot of lives and I don’t think she really knew how much,” she said.
Gaarde’s husband of 38 years, Douglass Gaarde, who also worked at the Navy Yard, agreed that his wife would disapprove of all the attention she was getting.
“Kathy, I’m sorry, but for all the love you’ve given over the years, you’re going to have to suck it up and accept all the love being given in return,” he said.
He said his wife loved travel, the Washington Capitals hockey team, the singing duo Hall & Oates, rescue dogs, and eagles— both the birds and the rock band.
Funerals were also held Tuesday for shooting victims Frank Edwin Kohler and Mary Knight.
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