By Dylan Deprey
She was a cheerleader. She was a college graduate. She was a local television hostess. She was an alderwoman. She was a traveler.
Marlene Johnson-Odom held a lot of positions, and even after working for more than 24 years as an alderwoman on city of Milwaukee Common Council, being a mom was her most important position.
Ms. Marlene Johnson- Odom passed away on Jan. 9, 2017.
Johnson-Odom lived in Milwaukee her entire life graduated from North Division High School and later received a Bachelor of Science Degree from the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee.
She worked for Milwaukee Public Schools as a social improvement instructor, and was a TV hostess on local Channel 18.
In 1980, Johnson-Odom succeeded her first husband Ben Johnson on the Common Council as the sixth district alderwoman.
She was praised for her work with developers to increase investments in her district including development along Brewers’ Hill and Humboldt Ave. She was also at the forefront for renaming 3rd Street to Martin Luther King Drive.
“Marlene was a trailblazer and a conscientious, deeply committed public servant who served with genuine honesty and integrity. She was a tireless advocate for her constituents and for the poor and disenfranchised, and her gentle kindness came through in how she treated people,” said 10th District Ald. Michael Murphy in a press release.
Though her achievements stand for themselves, her three children Jan Johnson Carlyle, Paula Johnson and Jay Johnson would say that she always put them before anything.
“It always felt like she put us first, I never missed a doctor’s appointment, and we were in church pew’s every Sunday,” said Jay Johnson.
He added that she never missed one of his wrestling matches and was one of his biggest cheerleaders.
“She often was the highlight of the event because she cheered vigorously, maybe it was because of her years as a cheerleader in high school,” Johnson said.
Following her retirement in 2004, she stayed involved in her community and worked to improve her and her children’s neighborhood.
Johnson-Odom moved to Phoenix, AZ with her daughter Paula Johnson six years ago, and two years later moved to Florence, MS.
“We always enjoyed our road trips, and coming back to Milwaukee every summer,” Johnson said.
Although Johnson-Odom traveled during her time as an alderwoman she took advantage of her retirement when her and her daughter went on a six-week road trip around the entire United States.
“We started in Phoenix, then went through Dallas, Mississippi, Atlanta, Charlotte, New York, Ohio, and stopped in Milwaukee. Then we went West through Iowa, Oklahoma, New Mexico and back to Phoenix,” Johnson said.
Ms. Johnson-Odom was also a grandmother and great-grandmother, and is survived by her three children, two grandchildren Amber Brown and Ellis Johnson, and 8 great-grandchildren.
“She was not only a loving mother, but a confidant who helped me through my entire life,” Johnson said. “She was an amazing mother on top of all the responsibilities she had being a public servant.”
The viewing is Friday at St. Marcus (2215 N. Palmer) from 9am-2pm.
The funeral services are on Saturday at St. Marcus. Visitation is from 10am until Noon and Services are at Noon.