School 13

Dorothy A. Johnson

March 2, 1933 ~ February 22, 2022 (age 88)


NEW SALEM- Dorothy A. Johnson, 88, of New Salem, passed away peacefully on February 22, 2022.

She was born on March 2, 1933 in South Hadley, Massachusetts to Gunnar Theodore Johnson and Edith Coe Johnson. Dorothy’s brother, Ted predeceased her in 1991. Dorothy’s life partner, Doris Abramson predeceased her in 2008. She is survived by her sister, Edith O’Hara of Missouri, her niece, several nephews and many friends.

Dorothy received a BA in English from Mount Holyoke College, and an MA in theater from Smith College. Some early work experiences included teaching at Xavier University in New Orleans, and working at MacMillan Publishers in Manhattan. In 1971 Dorothy and Doris settled on the common in New Salem. Together they opened up the Common Reader Bookshop, which Dorothy ran until her retirement in 2000. Many of their customers became life-long friends. 

Dorothy was an integral part of New Salem and a true community organizer. She helped the town in many capacities. She served on the selectboard, and was a member of the board of registrars, working at many state and local elections. 

In 1981, Dorothy started a tradition of writing the book and lyrics to musicals that she also directed, for townspeople to perform in and enjoy. She brought the New Salem 1794 Meetinghouse to life for over thirty years creating over a dozen musicals in collaboration with composers Andy Lichtenberg and Steven Schoenberg. These productions were cherished by everyone involved, were the highlight of the Meetinghouse’s performance season, and always brought everyone to their feet.

Books were an important part of Dorothy’s everyday life. She was an avid reader, bookseller, and collector. She was a library trustee and volunteered at the town library for many years where she began The Reading Aloud for Grownup Series, in 2008, which continues to this day.

A poet, as well as a playwright, Dorothy’s most recently published book, My Heart Remembers is a collection of poems written over the past two years. In 2011, she wrote “A Swift River Anthology” in which she conjured up the imagined lives of the drowned valley. Dorothy also wrote the “Quiet Places” column for Uniquely Quabbin magazine. 

Much of Dorothy’s life was spent living a day at a time. Hosting scores of gatherings, her home was always open, welcoming, and full of fun, pets and holiday celebrations.  She was always available to everyone and loved for her quick wit, strong opinions, loyalty to others, and kindness. Her loss is profoundly felt.

A memorial and celebration for Dorothy in the spring will be announced.

Donations can be made in her memory to The 1794 Meetinghouse, New Salem Friends of the Library, Dakin Animal Shelter.

Witty’s Funeral Home, 158 South Main Street, Orange, is assisting the family with arrangements.


To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Dorothy A. Johnson, please visit our floral store.


Services are to be announced

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