NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Longtime Nacogdoches radio and TV personality, musician, and entertainment historian Norman Johnson is coping with a serious illness.
So is his wife, Lill Mayes Johnson.
A benefit will be held tomorrow to help with medical expenses. The Johnsons say their circumstance illustrates why healthcare reform is so badly needed.
On good days, Norman always has a quick come back. Here's an exchange from Norman and his friend. David Stallings.
"You're looking great," Stallings said. "We'll have a good time on Saturday."
"Yeah, I am great," Norman replied.
"I know, you always said that," Stallings said.
Now in a nursing home, the radio/TV personality's room is decorated with selected photographs taken from a collection of hundreds. They're mostly of Elvis Presley, whom Norman performed with, impersonated, and wrote about, along with all the other celebrities of that era.
"Marty Robbins, Faron Young, Elvis Presley, Jim Reeves, Ray Price ... who else?" Norman said.
It's the music Norman and his wife Lill would share in the promotion of hundreds of benefits for those in need. Now it's their turn to be on the receiving end.
"He has a multitude of health issues," said Lill. "He has degenerative spinal disease."
Meanwhile, Lill, who loves to paint, battles Crohn's disease.
"Where your body actually attacks itself," Lill said.
Consequently, Lill lost her job and is paying expensive alternative insurance until disability kicks in.
"Some say the worst word in the world is Obamacare," Norman said. "I say the worst word in the world is healthcare."
Like so many older and middle-income Americans, the Johnsons face astronomical medical bills.
"Twenty-five thousand dollar licks at time, you know, every time you go to the doctor or the hospital can take a lot out of the pocket book real quick," Norman said.
The Johnsons support healthcare reform, but know they need help now, no matter how difficult it is to accept it.
"It's extremely humbling and … in a way, and I mean this in a nice way, humiliating," Norman said.
"Although it's difficult to accept that we accept their love and their kindness," Lill said. "And I've heard so many people say," Norman has entertained me for so many years on the air. I want to give back to him."
You're invited to the Norman and Lill Johnson Benefit. Johnson's friend, David Stallings only had to ask once for businesses and an entertainer to provide a free event. All that's asked for in return are donations.
"October the 5th from 11a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Appleby Sand Cafe' on Appleby Sand Road in Nacogdoches. There will be free food," said Stallings, who organized the benefit. "Norman will be out there. I think he will have some of his books that he has written. There will be a comedy concert by the comedian Willie P. Richardson at noon. A family-friendly type show and we just invite everyone and come out and help with this great cause."
For those who wish to mail in contributions they can be sent to Lill Johnson at P.O. Box 630955, Nacogdoches, TX 75963 or call 936-554-5822.