‘Weakfish’ Frances Klenawicus Johnson

Frances Klenawicus Johnson, a harelegger, was born in the kitchen of the family farmhouse at 22 Burns Avenue on April 27, 1930.

Family members said she was “an island icon, 90 years young.”

A celebration of her life is planned for the spring of 2021 and a scholarship is to be established in her name at the Shelter Island School and the Shelter Island Pilots Association.

She saw great change on the Island throughout her life, according to her family. Preserving the family’s farm from development, she worked with the man who would serve 10 years as town supervisor, Jim Dougherty, in the effort to create the Klenawicus Airfield landing area.

She was incredibly proud of the Klenawicus name, and her brothers, Joe and Frank Klenawicus, who were responsible for starting the Shelter Island Fire Department Chicken BBQ fundraiser with Bill Springer in 1963.

To this day, many Islanders and visitors plan their summers around the timing of the barbecue that gives them the opportunity to come together as a community of friends to support the volunteer fire department.

Frances studied at Rider University in Lawrenceville Township, N.J., where she graduated with a degree in business. She subsequently worked at Princeton University in the communications department for more than 38 years.

She married Lt. Colonel Leo Johnson after he brought her mother a basket of fish as a gift. Dame said,”Frances, I like this man — you should go out to dinner with him.”

They wed at the St. Gabe’s Chapel, in 1964.

The couple settled in Lawrenceville where Ms. Klenawicus enjoyed life to the fullest, from being the Queen of the Polka to attending almost every Princeton basketball and football game.

She enjoyed bookkeeping; Perlman music concerts; all things Lithuanian (it was her first language); watching her daredevil brothers “touch and go” in their “homebuilt” byplanes on the airfield; minding the windsock; attending yard sales; fresh fish dinners, parties and cocktails with friends and family; watering her mother Dame Klenawicus’ hydrangeas; and her daily 5 to 7 p.m. sunbathing at Louis’ Beach.

When she would return to the Island each July, her arrival would be marked by her pretty underwear on the front lawn clothesline. There were also brightly colored kites and fish on her front porch. Deeply Catholic, Frances enjoyed daily mass at Our Lady of the Isle.

As a young woman, Frances was a bus girl at the Oxford Hall, and a waitress at the Chequit Inn, often walking all the way home from the Heights to 22 Burns Avenue with a quart of ice cream to share with her sister Adelaide and brothers Joseph and Frank.

Growing up during the Depression, life was difficult. Venison and scallops were on the menu for months because back then they were fresh and free. Venison was often shot from a biplane piloted by her brothers. Frances and her sister and brothers walked to Shelter Island school with hot cups of coffee to keep their hands warm. In a bad winter, Greenport harbor froze solid and one could walk from North Ferry to Greenport.

She is survived by David F. Klenawicus, David D. Klenawicus, Kathryn Klenawicus, Butch, Linda, Kenneth, and Monica Klenawicus, and Susan Klenawicus.

She was also very close to her dear friends — Virginia Jernick, Beverly Cahill, Barbara Dish (Dishpan), Irene Senken, Rosemary Sanwald, Charlotte Hannabury, Edith Lechmanski, Lou Baker, Skip Tuttle (The Boss), Rosemary Griffin, Judy Meringer, Paulie Speeches, June and Kay Martin, Tommy MacNamara, Joan and Frank Caputo, Dorothy Ogar, Captain Ed Clark, Jamie Cogan, Charles James Hayward, Sherman Payne, Pat Barker, Susan Rourke, Charlie and Ceil Kraus, Bettianne Morritt, Jane Babinski, Bob Hopkins (Hoppy), David Huschle, Stanley and Clara Surozenski, Steve Lenox, Anita and George Bartilucci, Joe Taplin and Karoline Kilb.