Clifton Johns led the effort to restore Redeemer Missionary Baptist Church in Minneapolis and was a good neighbor to the Tubman Family Alliance, a shelter and resource center.
The retired U.S. Postal Service supervisor, whose efforts to restore his church put it on the national historic preservation map, died of pancreatic cancer Sept. 30 at his Minneapolis home. He was 76.
One of his principles in life was "to make a difference in someone else's life," said his wife, Maxine, of Minneapolis.
Johns, whose congregation in 1988 bought a decaying Prairie School-style building designed in 1900 by architects William Gray Purcell and George Feick, was the chairman of the church's board of trustees and an inspirational force behind the refurbishing.
After graduating from high school in St. Joseph, Mo., Johns moved to the Twin Cities with his family. From 1952 to 1956, he served in the Air Force, and when he returned to the Twin Cities, he attended the University of Minnesota.
He joined the Postal Service, rising to a supervisory post in Eagan, and retired in 1988 after 32 years on the job.
By 2000, the church next to a freeway noise wall at 116 E. 32nd St. was restored. The following year it received a National Trust for Historic Preservation award.
"This little building can have an impact on its community," said Johns in an April 11, 1999, Star Tribune article.
He had a full plate
He also was a leader in the church's social ministry, which provided computer training, a kitchen to allow volunteers to cook meals for the homeless and a haven for youth and families in the community, including people from Tubman.
Johns, who had a full plate struggling to restore the decaying, elegant church (even learning to restore stained glass windows), jumped at the chance to help Tubman.
"He was a listening leader," said Bev Dusso of Little Canada, president of Tubman.
He spurred fellow church members to participate at Tubman, and he worked with neighborhood groups and at City Hall to help Tubman expand its programs.
Eventually, he would serve on its board, and Tubman leaders helped the church acquire funding.
During retirement, Johns helped with efforts to shelter victims of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, was an award-winning volunteer at Abbott Northwestern Hospital and served on the boards of the Lyndale Neighborhood Development Corp. and the Preservation Alliance.
"Whatever project he undertook, he was there to see it through," said Greta Hartman of Minneapolis, a former employee and volunteer at Redeemer Missionary.
He is survived by his wife, daughters Michelle Johns, Toni Goldsby, Stephanie Johns and Valarie Johns, all of Minneapolis; sons Clifton Durham of New York and Gentry McQuiston of the Twin Cities; stepdaughters Eva Roa of Bay Point, Calif., and Tana Matthews of Minneapolis; stepsons Michael Day of Rogers, Ark., and Ronald Day of Minneapolis; sister Jeanne Grissam of Minneapolis; 14 grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.
Services will be at 11 a.m. today at Redeemer Missionary Baptist Church, 116 E. 32nd St., Minneapolis.