The news about public shootings that are dominating headlines seemingly daily is difficult enough to digest in statistical form, but when you start putting names to numbers and delving into the personal stories of the victims, the narrative becomes even more heart wrenching.
One of two deceased victims of the deranged man who opened fire at the Grand 16 Theater in Lafayette, Louisiana Thursday night (7-23) was named Jillian Johnson. 59-year-old John Russel Houser killed Johnson and Mayci Breaux, along with injuring nine others before turning the gun on himself. The 33-year-old Jillian Johnson was a pillar of the Lafayette arts community and owned a gift shop with her husband and brother called the Red Arrow Workshop, as well as a T-shirt business. But Jillian Jonson was also “… a phenomenal musician, which is what most of the community knew her for,” says her friend Molly Rowe to CNN. Molly says Jillian’s band was at the “forefront of a movement of a younger generation embracing Cajun/folk music traditions and making them popular and ‘cool’ again.”
Jillian Johnson was doing her part to help save country music in Lafayette like so many local musicians do all across the country and world as a member of the six-piece all-female country and roots outfit called The Figs. She played ukelele and sang harmony in the band. Their Facebook page lists their influences as, “Guitar, Banjo, Country Music, Sassiness, High Heels, Bob Wills,” and describe their sound as “High-Heeled Stomp.”
“Our hearts are shattered,” Jillian’s husband posted on the Red Arrow Workshop Facebook page. “We will love you forever. She was a once-in-a-lifetime gal. A mother, daughter, sister and a truly exceptional wife. She was an artist, a musician, an entrepreneur and a true renaissance woman. She was the love of my life and I will miss her always.”
Jillian Johnson was a graduate of Hillwood High School in Nashville, and attended Nashville’s Belmont University for her first two years of college before transferring to University of Louisiana at Lafayette where she graduated in 2004. The Figs played around Lafayette, would travel down to New Orleans and other places, and played the famous Blue Plate Special in Knoxville.
The band posted to Facebook upon the news, “We wish there were words to penetrate the hearts of the people watching the news to help them understand the kind of person Jillian was. Jillian made everything more beautiful. She was boundlessly creative, passionate, generous, talented, brave, and hard-working. She took pride and care in every detail, and she was easy to delight. She appreciated small beauties. She worked to make Lafayette a more beautiful place, and one of the most tragic things that has ever happened here took her. She was a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, an artist, a collaborator, a bandmate, a friend to so many. We are devastated. Please keep her loving and loved family in your hearts, along with the families of Mayci Breaux and other(s) affected.”