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Navy Yard shooting victim remembered for his optimism

| Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

GAITHERSBURG, Md. — Friends and family of Navy Yard shooting victim John Johnson remembered him Tuesday as a religious family man known for his infectious smile and firm bear hugs.

His was one of four funerals held for victims of the massacre at the Washington Navy Yard.

Mourners who attended Johnson's crowded funeral at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church said the warm recollections of an affable and optimistic family man underscored the tragedy of the shooting that killed 13 last week, including the gunman.

“It was just sad that, you know, a good man like this was taken away,” said Melvin David, a family friend from Glenwood. “It was absolutely a senseless act.”

Some mourners walked away from the service with thoughts that more must be done to tighten gun laws.

“You just pray and just say, God, we just hope that things like this are, you know, dealt with and gun control and taking away the guns off the street and the senseless tragedies will stop,” said Timothy Anderson, a family friend from Mitchellville.

Tony Zagami, Johnson's son-in-law, described in a eulogy how Johnson, 73, visited him in the hospital after he had brain surgery in August.

“In many ways, he sustained me with those visits and hastened my recovery,” Zagami wrote in the eulogy, which was read in church by his son, Dino. “That's the kind of person he was.”

Jason Woodward, another son-in-law, noted Johnson's three passions: fishing, faith and family.

“He was a man who would light up any room he walked into with his infectious smile, boisterous greetings that usually came with him giving you a nickname such as ‘Buddy,' or ‘You Old Buzzard,' a slap on the back and real firm handshake.”

Funerals were also scheduled Tuesday for victims Kathleen Gaarde, Frank Edwin Kohler and Mary Knight.

Memorials for Gaarde and Knight were to be held in Virginia.

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