York County political stalwart Salome Johnson remembered for her advocacy

Anthony Maenza
York Dispatch

People involved in the Democratic Party in York County and around the state are mourning the loss of political stalwart Salome Johnson, who died Saturday. 

Johnson, 75, of Hallam, served as a member of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party State Committee for York County for more than seven years and recently won another term for that position. She was a delegate to the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Overall, she was involved in Democratic and York County politics for more than 20 years. 

Democratic Party of York County Chairperson Chad Baker said during her time on the state committee, she served on various other boards, including as the vice chair of the Pennsylvania Latino Caucus. 

Salome Johnson, right, of Hallam Borough, and Gisele Fetterman share a laugh as Johnson introduces U.S. Senate candidate Lt. Gov. John Fetterman during a campaign stop at Holy Hound Taproom in York City, Thursday, May 12, 2022. Dawn J. Sagert photo

“For those who had the opportunity to meet Salome, you knew several things right away. She was a true-blue Democrat,” Baker said in a statement. “She was immensely proud of her family and spoke fondly of them often. She was incredibly proud of her Latin and African American roots. She never let a chance go by to remind us that she was a New York Democrat, but she was also a proud PA Democrat as well."

Johnson supported Tom Wolf during his campaigns for governor, and she continued to show her support for John Fetterman in his run for the U.S. Senate. Johnson introduced Fetterman and his wife, Giselle, to a packed house when they appeared in York City back in May, Baker said. 

"Salome Johnson was a spark of joy + a great friend to our campaign and our family. So sad to hear that she passed away. My sincere condolences go out to her loved ones + the York County Dems + PA Democratic Latino Caucus (where she served as Vice Chair) May she rest in peace," Fetterman tweeted on Monday.

“Salome Johnson was a spark of joy and a great friend to our family,” Gisele Fetterman said in a statement. “Her loss was a devastating one. We already miss her.” 

Deborah Yonick-Kalina, past president of York County Federation of Democratic Women, said Johnson was not only an advocate for the Democratic Party but she also was an advocate for women in politics. 

“She was a huge supporter of empowering women of all ages,” Yonick-Kalina said. “She would really put herself out there to help women in their campaigns, help women run for office and encouraged them to participate in whatever capacity they could in the community. She’s really touched a lot of lives, not just in York but really across Pennsylvania.” 

Johnson served on the boards for the Pennsylvania Federation of Democratic Women and Emerge PA, a nonprofit group that helps train women in the Democratic Party to run for office, Yonick-Kalina said  

“She really walked the walk,” Yonick-Kalina said. “She was there for everybody.” 

When Yonick-Kalina ran for Southern York County School Board, Johnson helped her with her campaign.

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“She encouraged me to participate in the body politic," she said. "She really influenced me and inspired me. She’s been a friend and a mentor and a supporter of me, personally and professionally.” 

York County Commissioner Doug Hoke said he also lost a good friend who was passionate about the Democratic Party. 

“Her time and efforts helping advocate for equality for all, will always be remembered. Her work in various campaigns (participating in parades, canvassing neighborhoods and attending events) was greatly appreciated,” Hoke said in a statement. “She will be missed, but always remembered, within our community.” 

According to a biography posted on York Dem Women, Johnson was born in Puerto Rico on Feb. 1, 1947, and grew up with her Italian family in Brooklyn. She considered herself a Black woman of Hispanic ethnicity who knew exactly how to order in a New York Italian deli. 

Johnson served on the Social and Racial Justice Committee for YWCA York and as Political Action chair for the NAACP. Pay equity for women and relieving debt for young people were issues that were important to her. 

She served as a regional director for the Democratic Party of York County, as a precinct committee person and as an active member of the executive committee for the party. 

Johnson received a Shining Star Award from the York County Federation of Democratic Women, Yonick-Kalina said, for her work with the organization. 

“She was one of our main volunteers,” Yonick-Kalina said. “She was one of many, but would really step up for everyone at every event that she could make.” 

Her biggest advocacy, Yonick-Kalina said, was making people understand why it was important to participate in the body politic and why voting matters. 

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“Our everyday lives are impacted by the decisions of the people who are elected and if we don’t participate in those decisions of who’s elected, our voices won’t be heard,” Yonick-Kalina said. 

Baker said that details of services for Johnson will be posted on the York County Democratic Party’s Facebook page. 

“Things will never be the same when I look and realize Salome is missing from the room. She has been a big part of this party for so many years and has been a strong friend and mentor to so many,” Baker stated. “I recently heard someone say that under your name when you pass will be the year of your birth, a hyphen, and the year of your death. Your legacy is that hyphen. In Salome's case, she packed so much into that hyphen that she will long be remembered by her friends, family and community.” 

Salome Johnson, right, of Hallam Borough, and Gisele Fetterman share a laugh as Johnson introduces U.S. Senate candidate Lt. Gov. John Fetterman during a campaign stop at Holy Hound Taproom in York City, Thursday, May 12, 2022. Dawn J. Sagert photo

— Reach Anthony Maenza at amaenza@yorkdispatch.com or @atmaenza on Twitter.