The small north shore community of Gull Island is feeling a little emptier these days following the passing of Gerald Johnson, a well-known citizen who died Sept. 18 following a battle with cancer.
The 60-year-old was given a unique and fitting send-off during a well-attended funeral service on Sept. 21 at the Corpus Christi Roman Catholic Church in nearby Northern Bay.
Gerald's casket was transported to the nearby cemetery aboard a horse-drawn wagon as a final tribute to his lifelong interest in horses.
Gerald's younger brother, Anthony, said it was an appropriate good-bye. Over the years, Anthony estimates his brother owned 100 different horses.
"Everyone that had horses, he knew them all and was a friend to them. He could leave here and probably go to Bay Roberts or Harbour Grace or anywhere and look at a horse and could tell who reared him up and where they came from," said Anthony.
He even had a unique fashion of trading horses.
"He'd sometime go in the woods with a red one and meet up with someone willing to trade, and he'd come home with a black one," said Anthony.
Long after it was a necessity to own a horse for tasks such as hauling wood or plowing ground, Gerald maintained his equine passion.
It was only in recent years that he didn't own a horse, largely because of his issues with diabetes.
"I recall him coming home at night and telling me to plug in the light in barn. He'd go out there for hours to groom the horse. His animals were well-treated," said Anthony.
Gerald was never married, and did not have any children. He lived alone in the family homestead.
"He never bothered a woman. He'd sooner have a horse than a woman. Maybe that's a smart thing," Anthony joked.
Gerald's house was often a gathering place for a crowd of local men, where they would talk about topics such as horses, fishing and the woods.
"The more people in the house the better. He loved crowds," Anthony noted.
Gerald's niece, 26-year-old Amanda Ledrew, paid tribute to her uncle with a poem.
Here is a portion of the poem:
"My uncle was the type,
who wore his heart upon his sleeve,
and every time you'd visit,
he never wanted you to leave;
A cup laid on the counter,
always ready for some tea,
his door was always open,
to his friends like you and me;
He really loved his horses,
and he owned quite a few,
everyone around him knew,
this was very true."
Gerald is survived by two brothers, Anthony and Michael, and two sisters, Elizabeth Johnson and Theresa Traverse.