Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Lt. Tori Hughes ended her eulogy for Community Service Officer Raschel Johnson by asking for a favor from the hundreds in attendance: Take out your cell phone, take a selfie and post it on social media.
Hughes’ request, while unconventional, seemed fitting for the woman described during her funeral service at The House in Modesto on Wednesday morning as outspoken, direct and always fun-loving. Johnson, a 15-year veteran of the sheriff’s department, died May 13 in a single-vehicle crash on Crows Landing Road. Deputy Jason Garner, who was driving the patrol car, also died. He was buried Tuesday.
Hughes previously served as police chief in Patterson, where Johnson was assigned for several years. Johnson’s last day in Patterson was May 12; she was going to take over training for all of the department’s CSOs and was on a ridealong with Garner when she died.
Hughes and current Patterson Chief Jeff Dirkse recalled Johnson as a woman passionate about her work and her family, and fiercely dedicated to children. The highlight of her job each year was the Patterson department’s holiday shopping trip with needy children, Dirkse said. But Johnson didn’t want to call it “Toys for Tots”, because that was what everyone else used. “So we worked together and came up with ‘Police Presents’,” Hughes said.
Dirkse said when he added Johnson to his cell phone contacts, the phone corrected her first name to “Rascal.” The name fit so perfectly, he said, it stuck.
Family members also talked about Johnson and her love for fun and adventure. And the Atlanta Falcons, of whom Johnson was a die-hard fan. A number of attendees wore red in recognition of Johnson’s favorite team.
“She is the only person who could make me put on a Falcons shirt,” said cousin Maureen Renee, a lifelong devotee of the Dallas Cowboys. Renee said she grew up looking up to her cousin, and wanting to follow in her footsteps. “My entire life, Raschel was a role model,” she said.
A procession to Lakewood Memorial Park followed the church service, and a burial ceremony was conducted there.
And then there was that selfie. Attendees who followed Hughes’ directions and posted the photos with hashtags “CSO Johnson” and “Whatever” (one of her favorite phrases) included Turlock Police Chief Nino Amirfar and Johnson’s boss, Sheriff Adam Christianson. The latter posted a selfie with members of his command staff on Facebook, saying “We will never forget you.”
Deke Farrow: 209-578-2327