This was originally spoken at Reds going home service in 2014.
I was asked to speak at Red’s home going service. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. There will never be another human like him. Reds taught me so much through the years. More than anything else, he taught me to love the Lord and trust Him no matter what. Our relationship started when I was only 11 years old, right here in this church. I was brought here as a “van kid” and ended up being a kid adopted by many families of this church including the Scott family. I used to beg Reds every Sunday for a job. His response was always the same. “Your turn will come.” One Saturday morning there was a knock at the door, very early I might add. The crazy part is that I wasn’t even at my house. I was staying at Bob & Pauline Smith’s house. They had invited me to stay over and go to Cape May with them. I get to the door and Reds says, “It’s your turn, you ready?” I explained my plans of going to Cape May and he asked me if I was gonna get paid for going to Cape May. My response was, “I’ll be right back, don’t leave, I’m going with you.”
From that very day, my life has never been the same. Boy was he trying to break me; he dropped me off at the Vineland store with Reggie, Renei and Alice. And to top it all off, my first job was chopping onions, my least favorite job to this day! I made it through the day and plenty of other days like it. Thinking back now, he was just preparing me for my future. Throughout my time at Big John’s our relationship changed. He began to take on other roles in my life. Doing things that didn’t even pertain to the shop. He cared about my mom having enough money to pay our rent at Tips Trailer Park, oil to heat the trailer and food to eat at the table. He even gave me my first car. I’ll never forget it. It was an 87 Mercury Topaz, baby blue. He set me up on payments that had to be paid before I could have the car. When I gave him the last payment, he handed me an envelope of money and said “now you have enough money to insure it.” He was always a step ahead to make sure you got what you needed.
It wasn’t always happy times that we shared. He had to deal with me in all types of situations. Believe it or not, I was young and hard headed at times. But no matter what I did, his advice and timing was always perfect. Sometimes I listened, and sometimes I didn’t. There were times I quit on him, some days I didn’t even show up at all. No matter what the case, he never gave up on me. He would tell me that he was praying for me and he always welcomed me back with open arms. I have witnessed so many things that Reds has done to bless others. He showed me the true meaning of God’s love for others. He taught me how to love people!
When I was asked if I wanted to speak today, I knew I wanted to honor him in any way possible. I began to think of words to describe the person he was; courageous, dependable, ambitious, loving, generous, wise, joyful, obedient, pleasant, hardworking, sincere, the list goes on. But after looking through all these words to describe him, I realized that the one word that sums up what he was to me was HERO! There will never be another one like him. I can only pray that I can be half the man he was. I will be forever grateful to have had him as a part of my life!
After his passing, word spread like wild fire on social media. Tons of people were remembering him for what they knew him for, the icon of pizza! I had made up my mind that I wasn’t going to post anything. Then I realized that most of the people posting were reminiscing about the works of his hands. I felt led to write my story about the works of his heart. Here’s what I wrote.
“Where do I start, what do I even say?” I have been thinking about the right thing to say and can’t even find a word that describes how I feel. I lost one of the most influential men in my life. I’m really lost for words. He wore so many hats in a day’s time and was great at them all. He was a man with great wisdom, compassion and had a heart filled with love for everyone around him. I don’t know where my life would be without the guidance and love that he showed me. This quote from him to me will forever remain in my heart. He said, “Son, I’m so glad I didn’t waste my time on you!” Reds you are and always will be my HERO. Til we make pies in the sky together my friend, I love and miss you Reds! ~ Rob Johnson