Johnnie Crawford, one of the longest-tenured and most-beloved Dollywood employees, died unexpectedly on Dec. 18, 2021. She was 94 years old.
Per the Berry Funeral Home website, Crawford was born in Knoxville, Tenn. on April 7, 1927. The longtime Dollywood greeter known as Ms. Johnnie began her job at the East Tennessee theme park on opening day in 1986.
"Johnnie grew up during the Great Depression and learned how to survive on very little," reads her obituary. "She was tough and gentle. She would wake up at 4:30 every morning and walk her dog Gypsie. She loved to work, stayed happy and ate what she wanted, including tomato and mayonnaise sandwiches. She will be missed by so many."
Dollywood officials raved about Crawford to local outlets, painting her as a proud ambassador of the Smoky Mountains.
"Ms. Johnnie personified the warm and inviting friendliness for which Dollywood has become so well known," Dollywood officials said (as shared by WBIR). "She was a bright light for every guest who visited [Dolly Parton's] Chasing Rainbows Museum, and she often said her favorite part of the job was being able to meet so many different people and learn about them. It was a common sight to see her fellow Dollywood hosts stopping by to say hello and enjoy time with her. In fact, each time Dolly visited the museum, Ms. Johnnie would joke with her that they both started their jobs at Dollywood at the same time--when the park opened in 1986. She certainly will be missed by her Dollywood family."
Crawford spoke with WBIR in 2017 about her Dollywood job, which she accepted at age 58.
"I remember it just like it was yesterday," she said. "When I hired in, the guy asked me 'how long you think you're going to work, Johnnie?' and I said probably 10 years because I was older at the time. He said 'you need to stay longer than 10 years' and I said 'well, I'll try.'"