Mimi Johnson, a compassionate and dynamic Ukiah-area cancer-patient advocate who helped hundreds of sick people navigate the medical system, died at home Wednesday, April 2 of the disease she had battled at work and in her private life. She was 68 years old.
"Mimi has been a shining light and tireless advocate for her clients. She has inspired us all," said Sara O'Donnell, director of the Cancer Resource Centers of Mendocino County. Johnson worked in the Centers' Ukiah office for 16 years, the first five as a volunteer.
She helped cancer patients negotiate the medical system, including attending their doctor visits to help them understand their illness and their treatment choices. She was gentle and kind but her compassion was fierce while fighting for her clients, O'Donnell said.
Johnson extended the same devotion to her family and friends.
"She had a great big heart," said longtime friend Joyce Harrington.
Johnson was born March 3, 1946 in Chicago. She was adopted by John and Alice McCarthy, who named her Mary Margaret, family said.
She graduated from Nazareth Academy High School in 1964. An adventurous, free-spirited young woman, Johnson soon took off to explore the world, traveling to tropical islands and Europe and briefly living in Florida before heading to California in the early 1970s. She lived in Mountain View before moving to Mendocino County, where she bought land and built a home with vast views of the mountains and valleys between Ukiah and Mendocino.
Johnson, effervescent and efficient at the same time, worked at the now-shuttered historic Palace Hotel from 1978 to 1982, managing music acts and advertising for the hotel's busy Back Door Nightclub, according to her husband, Doug Johnson.
The couple met at the Palace Hotel. They married in 1983 and operated The Video Place in Redwood Valley from 1985 to 2011, he said.
Their son Devon was born in 1990.