Mary Johnson-Roy remembered for her faith and forgiving the man who killed her son

Mary Johnson-Roy remembered for her faith and forgiving the man who killed her son

Mary Johnson-Roy remembered for her faith and forgiving the man who killed her son

Saturday was Mary Johnson-Roy Day in the city of Minneapolis. Mayor Jacob Frey made the declaration as she was laid to rest in the morning.

Johnson-Roy, who is most remembered for forgiving the man convicted of killing her son and developing a thriving relationship with him, recently passed away two years after being diagnosed with Lewy body dementia.

Among those at the celebration of life service at Shiloh International Ministries in Minneapolis and those watching online, Johnson-Roy was known best as ‘Mother Mary.’

The title came from the most tragic moment of her life — losing her only son. In 1993, 20-year-old Laramiun Lamont Byrd was shot and killed. 12 years later, Johnson-Roy did the unfathomable when she found it in her heart to forgive Oshea Israel, the man who — at 16 years old — took her son’s life. They first met in 2005 while Israel was still incarcerated at the Stillwater Correctional Facility.

“At the end of it, I felt compelled to just give her a hug to show that I was sincere in what I was saying. and I asked to give her a hug. She accepted, and she kind of broke down in my arms. I had to hold her up. And I think that was the moment where we started our bond,” Israel said during an interview after the service on Saturday.

That bond changed both of their lives and took them cross-country to speak about the experience. Their interviews were featured in national news and on The View. Johnson-Roy also met former President Barack Obama during his presidency while she was doing outreach.

“You’ll be surprised at what one small moment can do for a person’s entire lifetime,” Israel shared. “Her legacy is forgiveness and God.”

Angel Cradle, who reported a friendship with Johnson-Roy spanning 15-16 years, lost her son to gun violence in 2007. Cradle, in an interview on Saturday, said she first heard Johnson-Roy speak on forgiveness in the same church the service was held in.

“And I swore and said, ‘No, I don’t want to have anything to do with her. She’s forgiving the man that took her son’s life.’ I said, ‘No, I’m not gonna do it.’ I walked out of here crying,” Cradle recalled.

“But you know what? Something told me to go back, and it had to be God.”

While she’s yet to meet the person who killed her son, Cradle said she has found it in her heart to forgive them.

“It helped me heal,” she said.

“She changed my life more than I can even imagine, more than she could even imagine,” shared Johnson-Roy’s stepdaughter Kesa Jones, adding, “I don’t look at her as a stepmother. I look at her as my mother.”

“She had space in her heart for all. And that’s what made her so powerful,” said Brian Mogren, who worked with Johnson-Roy and considers her his ‘sister.’

Her legacy may be best summarized in her own words. During an interview she and Israel did with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS in 2019, Johnson-Roy said, “It’s possible to forgive. It’s possible to have peace.”

Johnson-Roy’s legacy lives on through the Two Mothers Healing Groups. Mogren stressed that those will continue to be hosted at the St. Jane House on Minneapolis’s north side. Anyone interested can also donate to the Mary Johnson-Roy Legacy Fund.