By Dan Yount
The Cincinnati Herald
Over the past year, Cincinnati businesswoman Kimberly Nicole Johnson has been learning to walk without her cane. When Johnson talks about her progress, she is not referring to walking without a wooden or metal support. She will tell you she is referring to walking through life again without the support of “my Devan’ … Devan Rmoni Johnson, her loving and affectionate husband of 18 years, and her best friend, business partner, confidant, who was suddenly taken away from her and his family early in the evening of Sept. 24, 2016, when was riding his bike home from their business in Over-the-Rhine. Devan had pulled off from a stoplight when the throttle on his bike stuck, and, as he was trying to gain control of his bike, it hit a pole and he was thrown off it.
Johnson, 46, has written a memoir about her loss that is titled Walking Without My Cane that was was published in 2017.
“This is a book about love, triumphs and hope, a book that gives readers suffering similar losses courage and hope,’’ she said.
In her book, she writes about the triumphs she and Devan had in their journey together, including their family of four children and their success with their hair salon businesses, but also about the difficult phases of her life, such as her mother being involved in a serious car accident while she was six weeks pregnant with her, her successful treatment for breast cancer in 2014, and, finally, the loss of her husband. She takes the reader through the grieving process, the coping with the loss, her faith in God, and the steps she has taken in moving forward in life.
“Here I stand at 46 years as a survivor,’’ Johnson said. “That tells me that I have purpose, as all who are created and placed in this world do.
“However, losing my husband unexpectedly birthed a new version of Kimberly Nicole Johnson and it has shown me what real strength is.’’
Devan Johnson was tremendously popular and loved, Kimberly said. More than 2,000 people were drawn by his untimely death to the funeral service at Word of Deliverance Church in Forest Park.
Kimberly first met Devan when they were students at Withrow High School. They reconnected at a hair styling school, married shortly after that, and began their own business, Incredible Creations Beauty and Barber Salon in 2004 on Gilbert Avenue in Walnut Hills. In 2008, they moved into a space at 1209 Vine St. in Over-the-Rhine.
“He was the go-getter in the business. I was behind the scenes,’’ she said.
But Devan was not only a barber; he was also a celebrity stylist along with studying architectural engineering at the University of Cincinnati.
Kimberly described her husband as stylish, and a well-known roller skater, dancer, and rapper. He was also a devoted and loving husband and father of their four sons, Antwaun, 30, Ryan, 27, Maurez, 24, and Hassan, 22, she said.
She described their relationship as being “one.’’ “We seemed to have known what each other was thinking, even when we were apart, and we often completed each other’s sentences.
Shortly before Devan died, he had been reflective, and perhaps, prophetic, she said. “I remember how Devan and I were so happy and more in sync than we had ever been. He was so peaceful and he wanted to go to Egypt. At the shop, he told one of the women staff members how thankful and grateful he was for his life, for the blessings of his wife, his children and grandchildren. He mentioned he had traveled the world, doing what he loves, has a shop and home, and that he was thankful God had blessed him.
Kimberly said her husband said he had done everything he wanted to do, and the only thing left for him to do was to go to Egypt. “Who says that?’’ she asks. “A person who believes they will soon leave this Earth because they feel their purpose is complete. Was he saying ‘Egypt’ because that meant ‘Heaven?’ “
She says she now has decided to step outside what had become her regular routine. “My life will never be the same, so how can I be the same?’’ she said. “My focus had been on my husband (my cane) and family, and now it’s about me and what I need to do with this gift of life.’’
Now, Johnson says she is launching the Kimberly Nicole Johnson brand. While she remains involved in the Cincinnati and Tampa businesses she and Devan founded, she travels and conducts “platform’’ seminars on hair styling, discusses her book with groups, and works with cancer survivors about how to live in the moment, she said. She also is creating a clothing brand (IC Custom Clothing).
Her sister, Julie, who is vice president of a healthcare company in Tampa, is helping her build a presence there.
Johnson said her faith has become stronger as she now walks life’s journey without her husband by her side, as if her faith has become her new “cane.’’
Walking Without My Cane is available at this time by contacting Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org.