Bessie Lee Johnson was born on a small farm in rural Madison County, Kentucky, on March 29, 1923.
She was the daughter of Atrus Ballew and Pattie Grubbs Ballew.
She confessed a hope in Christ at an early age and united with Concord Predestinarian Baptist Church, where she served as church secretary for many years.
She married Andrew Johnson in November 1944, and this union was blessed with a daughter, Kathy Johnson Bellfield; a granddaughter, Tiffany Carol Bellfield; and a great-granddaughter, Makayla Lee Bellfield.
She also leaves to cherish her memory: one sister, Olevia (Frye) Clay; a brother and sister-in-law, Rev. Theodore E. and Alice Johnson; and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.
Bessie graduated from the old Richmond High School in 1942. She was a long-time member of the Madison County Grapevine Homemakers Club and had a life-long passion for painting. She began painting professionally 30 years ago and over the years won numerous awards for her paintings at state fairs, art shows and festivals in three states. In 1994, she won the Best of Show Blue Ribbon at the prestigious Frank Duveneck Art Show in Northern Kentucky for her painting titled "Cotton Pickers." Some of her favorite scenes have been churches, segregated schools, farm animals, flowers and trees.
Her mother, Pattie Grubs Ballew, grew lots of flowers such as buttercups, roses and lilacs, and Bessie reflected these in her paintings.
Her husband Andrew was a self-taught sketch artist and would assist her painting work by drawing various scenes (most from memory) for her to then paint. Her colorful paintings are very much like looking at a history book that tells the story of her family and community.
An avid gardener, Bessie would put up many jars of all types of vegetables and fruit, which she would then share generously with family and friends. Her cooking of cornbread, blackberry cobblers and chow chow were always family favorites of Bessie's delicious home cooking.