Johnica Branaman was born in Salem, Indiana, on the 21st of June, 1963, to Chester Wayne and Rosemary Haley Sill. Under the influence of her parents who were small farmers, Johnica immersed herself in 4-H. “Horses. Oh, she loved her horses,” her husband, Tim responded when asked about Johnica’s favorite childhood memory. “Her Dad was a big inspiration for her with farming and other stuff,” Tim stated. Johnica attended Eastern Schools and graduated in 1981. Aside from 4-H, she was also heavily involved with basketball and church camp. Upon graduation, she worked at Tecumseh in Salem until the birth of her first son. Subsequently, she was a Teacher’s Aide and a bus driver. A young mother of three, she continued her studies at Indiana University Southeast where she received an education degree in 2002.
From there, she moved on to teach middle school language arts for eight years at Henryville West Clark Community Schools. In 2015, she was hired to teach high school agriculture class for East Washington School Corporation where she taught up to the final months of her life. Considered to be one of the greatest accomplishments during her time at Eastern High School, Johnica led a project where mums were planted in the shape of a giant letter “E”.
Johnica and Tim met each other working at Nolting’s Super Value, a grocery store at Hilltop Plaza in Salem. The couple married in June 15, 1984. They are the parents of three boys, Travis, Taylor, and Todd Branaman. The couple built a home on a family farm. “She would start her mornings with a cup of coffee on the porch and would work on the flowers,” Tim said. “We added on poultry barns in 2011 and we never thought about moving anywhere else,” He added.
Strong in her faith, Johnica is a lifelong member of Bunker Hill Christian Church. “Always big in family, she loved kids and supported all the sporting events. She has always got along with everyone. Positive, outgoing, and a sweet person, she never met a stranger,” Laura Mahuron commented. “The biggest quality in her was that she didn’t believe in giving up,” Tim added on.
“Suck it up, buttercup! That’s what she would always say,” Tim claimed. Throughout her life, she has learned to overcome various challenges in the areas of farming, economy, and raising three boys while completing her degree. “But she never complained,” Tim said. A very strong woman with lots of values and with lots of positive energy, she serves to be a powerful influencer for her family. Johnica was serious about her dedication to family, to work, and her faith. “She wants her boys to remember to be involved with church and always be there for family,” Tim said.
All having attended East Washington Schools, her children have all moved onto a new chapter of their lives. The oldest, Travis, is a full-time farmer. Taylor joined the military upon graduation and works at Haas Cabinets. The youngest of the three, Todd, is a graduate of Prosser and is a full-time welder.
Looking back on memories, Laura remembers taking Johnica on a trip to Florida. “She has never been to the ocean. She loved the water and being in the sun. We had a blast the entire time,” Laura said. Tim added on, “Showing cattle at the fair was our family vacation. She really enjoyed water, which is the reason why we got a swimming pool!”
As an educator, Johnica valued education and never ever giving up. She was always in the cattle barn at the 4-H Fair willing to lend a hand to anyone who needed help. After her death, family and friends established The Johnica Branaman Scholarship Fund for graduates of Eastern High School. This gift is able to give back to the community that gave so much to her throughout her life. Through this fund, Johnica will be able to reach out to many youth for generations to come by “lending a hand” for good and forever, in Washington County.