Johnni Mae Sims was born on January 24, 1936 in Lawrence, MS being the daughter of Joseph and Bessie Mae (nee Walker) Ellis.
As a young child she moved from Mississippi to Joliet, IL to live with her Uncle John and Aunt Belle Ellis. She confessed faith in Christ at an early age and united with St. Mark C.M.E. Church in Joliet, IL where her devout faith and love for the church led her to serve in many capacities; church secretary for 25 years, stewardess, member of the young people’s choir, Church Conference and Quarterly Secretary and Co-Chairperson of the 2002 Men and Women’s Day are just a few of the positions she had the pleasure of holding.
Johnni attended the Joliet Public School system graduating from Joliet Township High School. She was employed for a number of years at the Joliet Army Ammunition Plant (The Arsenal). She later attended beauty school and became a licensed cosmetologist and years later pursued her education by attending and graduating with honors from Lewis University where she received a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work in May of 1979 and where she also pledged and became a charter member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated, Lambda Psi Chapter.
In her early years of school, she met many lifelong friends and the most special of all was Elmer R. Sims. He later became the love of her life and they were united in Holy Matrimony on August 2, 1958. She often spoke with pride of being the very first couple to marry in St. Mark C.M.E. Church under the pastorate of Reverend W.H. Alexander. To this union, two children were born; Sara Beth and Leslie Grant.
She and Elmer moved to Blue Bell, Pennsylvania in 1990. While there, she used her social work background working with adults with disabilities and met many special people at Holsey Temple Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, PA. They remained there until Elmer retired in 1995, moving back to the Midwest.
Throughout her lifetime, she and her husband partnered performing various civic duties in support of bettering the community for theirs and future generations. Johnni volunteered for many years as a pollster in her neighborhood polling location; Richards Street Church. Both she and her husband shared a passion for the political process and worked in various ways to encourage others to participate and take full advantage of their rights. She passed down the importance of making each voice and each vote count. Their family and closest friends shared this same zeal. Political and social opinions were never sparse among their chosen contemporaries. This is abundantly clear if you were to view the social media of the offspring of their “village.”
She also enjoyed spending time with her family and friends, and traveling with her husband until he went to be with the Lord in August of 2009. In 2010, she relocated to the East Coast and joined her children and grandchildren.
Johnni is preceded in death by her loving and devoted husband of 51 years, Elmer R. Sims; parents, Bessie Mae (Walker) and Joseph Ellis; a very special uncle and aunt, John (Belle) Ellis; sisters, Carrie Ellis and Joanne Ellis; brothers Joe Lee Buckley and Clyde Ellis.
She leaves to cherish her memory and continue her legacy her two loving children: a daughter, Sara Beth (Lamar) Brookins of Upper Marlboro, MD; a son, Leslie (Clorinda) Sims of Upper Marlboro, MD; granddaughter, Jhonna; grandsons, Cyrus and Quinton. Also survived by 8 siblings, Robert (Josephine) Ellis of Joliet, IL, Willie (Shannon) Ellis of Joliet, IL, Josie Harris of Lawrence, MS, James Ellis of Meridian, MS, Irene Ellis (Mark) Knowles of Jackson, MS, Sarah Ellis (Godwin) Dafe of Jackson, MS, George (Diane) Ellis of Newton, MS, Joseph (Gayla) Ellis of Atlanta, GA and sisters-in-law, Bertha Rankins of Chicago, IL; Barbara Sims of Joliet, IL; Betty McKenzie of Chicago, IL; godchildren, Gloria Green of Joliet, IL; Carlotta Sims of Joliet, IL; numerous treasured nieces, nephews, cousins and close friends who she quite simply adored. She treasured her family and friends and taught her children to do the same. Although her body is absent now from this earth, her legacy will live on.
Proverbs 31:31 – Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
As the words of one of her favorite songs say, she is now….Safe in His Arms….