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Seamstress of Champions

Jo Lynne Johnson ’72 wields needle and thread for skaters

“Professional” volunteer Jo Lynne Johnson ’72 has helped out with everything from PTA to pants tailoring for championship ice skater Jason Brown.

A psychology major with minors in sociology and biology, Johnson’s life as a volunteer started in her daughter’s elementary school, where she ran a computer lab and fundraising auctions.

She says, “Whatever needed to be done, I rolled up my sleeves and said ‘Let’s do it.’”

Hours of volunteering later, to get a free pass for her ice-skating daughter, who wanted to watch the national championships in Providence, R.I., in 1995, Johnson signed up to help. When the organizers noticed her sewing skills, her “job” was set. “There aren’t many of us sewers out there anymore,” says Johnson, who learned her skills before she was a teen, sewing her own clothing to fit her long-armed and long-waisted body.

At the 2014 U.S. National Figure Skating Championships, she and others helped Brown, the U.S. champion in 2015, by refitting his pants, which were “too big and riding too low.” Trouble with a costume can ruin a skater’s focus. Brown had a phenomenal showing on the ice, and Johnson likes to think that fixing his pants helped. She’d never considered taking her sewing into the work world but eventually started Genuines by Jo Lynne, a small  business that created skating costumes.

After her daughter left for college, Johnson worked at Starbucks and went through its management program. But when her husband, whom she met on a post-Swarthmore 4-H international exchange program to Nepal, retired early, she left the coffee behind to become a volunteer English teacher in southeast Asia.

At home in New Hampshire, the couple enjoys travel, although Johnson is emphatic that she’ll continue to bring her needle, thread, and sewing skills to skating championships in the Boston area.