Warners invested in people, education

Don Warner ’49 and Carol Warner

There weren’t many women in the ministry when Rev. Cathy Warner ’81 Johns answered the call.

But she knew she could do it because her mother, Carol Warner, told her she could.

“I wasn’t more than 3 or 4 years old,” says Johns, “and I was standing there by the kitchen sink and she said to me, ‘You can do anything you want. You can be a doctor. You can be a lawyer. You can be a fireman. You can do whatever you want.’”

Born on an Allen County farm in the depths of the Great Depression, Carol Warner’s choices were more limited than her daughter’s were. Despite that – or maybe because of it – Carol encouraged Cathy to follow her dreams. Carol and her husband, Don Warner ’49, made that possible by helping Cathy and her brother, David, pay for college.

“Investing in education was big for them,” says Johns of her parents. Because of their help, Johns graduated from Manchester in 1981 and United Theological Seminary in 1984 debt-free. The Warners were longtime Manchester donors who provided, among other gifts, an office in the Martha Cunningham and Joseph Cunningham Academic Center. When Carol died a widow in 2020, she left MU a generous estate gift for the General Endowment Scholarship Fund.

“Mom was a social person” who enjoyed phone calls and visits from Manchester’s development officers, said Johns. Even though she and her dad were the alumni in the family, “Mom was the cheerleader for Manchester.”

Carol Warner was remarkably generous with both her treasure and time. She volunteered at Parkview Hospital for more than 50 years, and drove for the American Cancer Society for more than 30 years.  She enjoyed serving people in need through the Fort Wayne Christmas Bureau and the Fort Wayne Rescue Mission. She also volunteered for the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo and the American Red Cross.

An active member of Church of the Covenant United Methodist Church, Warner was a past president of Church Women United and had many leadership roles with United Methodist Women.

 “To call her an extraordinary volunteer is an understatement,” says Johns, who serves as a senior pastor at Hyde Park Community United Methodist in Cincinnati.  She is blessed to serve with her husband, Doug, who is also a senior pastor at Hyde Park Community UMC. 

“There were so many layers to what she did,” adds Johns, who wrote in her mother’s obituary that Carol “believed that each day God gave us the opportunity to do something to bless another person’s life.”

A World War II veteran, Don Warner graduated from Manchester in 1949 with a history degree and taught school for a year. Realizing that teaching didn’t pay enough to support a family, he spent the rest of his career in management at Dana Corp.

“My dad had a good job, but we were not wealthy people,” says Johns. Her parents were careful with their finances and “very generous” to others, however. Your priorities are evident in how you spend your time and money, says Johns, and her parents’ priorities of education, church and helping others were obvious.

They were life lessons, too. Just as Don and Carol Warner paid for their children’s education, so too have Cathy and Doug Johns. “We took out loans so that our kids didn’t have to,” says Cathy. “We’ll do as much as we can to help our grandchildren.”

Johns transferred to Manchester in 1978 after one year at Purdue. She was doing fine at the state university, but recalls sitting in classes with 700 people. After one year in West Lafayette, she asked herself, “Do I really want that again? The answer was ‘no,’ I really don’t.”

So she enrolled at Manchester, her dad’s alma mater, because it was smaller and faith-based. A singer for as long as she can remember, she found a community in A Cappella Choir. “I loved that,” says Johns. “Those people became my dearest friends.”

Manchester has always influenced her work as a pastor, says Johns, a lifelong Methodist who also earned a Doctor of Ministry from Chicago Theological Seminary in 2003. She majored in interpersonal communication and minored in psychology at Manchester and draws deeply from her education in counseling and conflict resolution, among other skills. “I use both of those undergraduate degrees every single day in my job.”