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Dec 05
Retired Pirate Signe Johnson Passes Away

Signe johnson portraitSigne Johnson called OCC home for 30 years before retiring in 2008. Her many former colleagues and friends were shocked and saddened to hear of her sudden passing on Nov. 25. Former supervisor, Mr. OCC Jim Carnett, shares some of his favorite memories of Signe.

Sig worked for me for about 28 years (my guesstimate), from her hiring date in 1980 (approx) to 2008 (my retirement).  She was a graphic designer in OCC’s Community Relations Office, and she designed a host of campus publications including catalogs, schedules, posters, newsletters, brochures, newspaper ad campaigns, flyers, media guides, you name it.  She was amazingly gifted at meeting impossible deadlines. Virtually everyone – including myself – gave her unrealistic deadlines, but Signe always had projects FINISHED when you needed them. Always! She was one of the most popular staff members on campus. Everybody loved her.  Over the years she captured a variety of state and regional awards for her work. But Signe wasn’t about honors and awards – though she certainly deserved them. She was about people. Always people.

She and my wife, Hedy, became best of friends.  They were always going to lunch together, or shopping, or seeing a film (Sig was quite a film aficionado), or attending a concert.  I’d occasionally tag along.

I met Sig’s father, Connie Johnson, in 1972.  Connie was the rigger for Dave Grant’s Coast Crew.  I traveled with the crew to Syracuse in 1972 to attend the national collegiate finals.  As rigger, Connie “set up” all of OCC’s shells (boats) for racing. The following year, 1973, I went with the crew to England for the Royal Henley Regatta.  Connie was one of the most magnetic human beings you’ll ever meet. The oarsmen loved him. His sense of humor was brilliant. At rowing competitions, everyone would go to his room at night and he'd tell stories.  Connie was a master storyteller, and he had scores of them in his hip pocket. He never flubbed a punchline. He was uproarious. 

Connie never met a stranger.

I met his daughter, Sig, nearly a decade later when she applied for OCC’s Graphic Designer position. Sig was fresh out of Cal State Fullerton with a B.A. in art.  I interviewed her and was immediately taken by her knowledge, skills and personality. She was unquestionably the one for the position. Best hire I ever made!

She was a talented artist and designer, and handled deadlines better than any professional I’ve ever known.  And she could really crank out the material during peak periods (which was basically all of the time). She saved my bacon so many times.  We could always count on Sig to do a great job.

She had a warm smile and an infectious laugh.  She loved funny stories, political discussions, and cute, fluffy dogs.  I never saw her angry or too busy to listen to a colleague’s trials. She was a great listener.  In short, she was Saint Sig.

Actually, for years I called her “Sick-Knee.”  That’s what our daughter, Jade, called her when she was three.  Sig liked it. She was rarely sick, however, and almost never took a day off. 

She loved Orange Coast College and Orange Coast College loved her.

Signe particularly loved our office assistant, Idamae Keily.  Idamae joined the staff in 1965. When she turned 70, I had to annually submit a letter to the district verifying that she could still do the job.  Are you kidding me? I submitted that letter 15 years in a row.

Idamae gave me the best professional advice I ever received.  She sat in on the Graphic Designer interviews, taking notes. “Jim,” Idamae told me after the interview, “If you don’t hire that girl I’m gonna take early retirement!” Nuf said.

Hedy and I love and miss her!