- The Washington Times - Friday, December 20, 2002

Santa Claus delivered presents and a little relief yesterday to the sons and wife of Conrad Johnson, the final victim of the Washington-area sniper attacks.
Working with about $1,500 in donations, the Montgomery County government surprised the family with gifts and some cash. On the bush-lined walkway in front of the family's house in Oxon Hill, Mr. Johnson's eldest son, Dante, 14, opened a package that included "Monster's Ball" and "Baby Boy" digital video discs after his 6-year-old brother, Devon, ripped the paper off a rubber World Wresting Entertainment "Stone Cold Steve Austin" figure.
"It's overwhelming in a good way," said Mr. Johnson's widow, Denise, speaking to the press for the first time since his death. "It brings smiles to my children's faces."
Mr. Johnson, 35, was standing on the steps of his county Ride On bus about 6 a.m. Oct. 22, waiting for the first riders to arrive at the Aspen Hill stop, when he was shot in the abdomen. He died at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, the 10th fatality in the three-week shooting spree.
At his Oct. 26 funeral, which drew 2,000 people, friends recalled how passengers would bring him cakes and how he called his wife on a cellular phone to have the entire busload of passengers sing "Happy Birthday" to her.
Mrs. Johnson said that as the first Christmas without her husband approaches, the pain she and her children feel is intensifying.
Dante abstained from participating Saturday in the decoration of the family Christmas tree, an event Mr. Johnson loved, said Mrs. Johnson's sister, Trina Young.
Mrs. Johnson said Mr. Johnson was a last-minute shopper who, at this time of year, would be gathering gifts for the children between his split shifts as a bus driver. This year, she and her children will spend the holiday at home with a small group of close relatives. She allowed the children to open only one gift yesterday, saving the rest for Christmas morning.
Two Ride On buses parked in front of the house, dropping off several of Mr. Johnson's former co-workers, who wore Santa hats and chatted with the family. Banners on the side of the buses read, "In Memory of Conrad Johnson."
Braxton Wiggs, a Ride On driver who dressed as Santa and carried a red sack of gifts, said that being able to help the family and seeing Mr. Johnson's children happy "brightened up my day, my week, my month."
"I know he's looking down on us," Mr. Wiggs said. "Right now, he is saying, 'Man, I have some good friends.'"
Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan was part of the party.
"It's great that we made the holiday season a little brighter" for Mr. Johnson's family, Mr. Duncan said.

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