Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Madame Kinney, the psychic, is no more, but daughters will carry on

Madame Kinney spent a lifetime peering into the future, but even she could not have envisioned the throng that gathered in St. Petersburg for her memorial.

During three days in February, families of Romanian descent from around the country kept coming, more than 300 people sharing barbecue and stories about a woman they believed to have unique powers.

Whether she did, of course, depends on perspective or faith. But it is certain that for 50 years, Madame Kinney personified her psychic profession in Pasco County while endearing herself to a steady clientele from housewives to politicians. She read palms and tarot cards, gazed into crystal balls and offered guidance on everything from business to romance. She called her talent a gift from God.

She made the news from time to time. She and her husband, Bob Johnson, understood politics, and more to the point that her profession needed regulation to keep out the fly-by-nighters. They came and they went, but Madame Kinney endured and prospered because she and Bob also knew a thing or two about investments and land speculation.

Imagine that, a clairvoyant predicting escalating values.

In between sad moments last week, Bob and daughter Shirley Johnson chuckled about that detail during a conversation at their home in Hudson. They had spent most of the last three years caring for Ruth, Madame Kinney's real name, watching her fight off brain cancer but not other infirmities of age. She died on Feb. 24 at age 82.

The Johnsons wanted to let people know about Ruth's passing, and also to announce that Shirley and her sister, Cindy, are taking over the business.

"We've been so busy caring for mom,'' Shirley said, "and now we want to reopen in her honor. We talked about it. This is what she wanted.''

Shirley said she possesses the same "gift'' as her mother and grandmother, and that she has worked professionally since she was 15. She and Cindy have already set up shop at the USA Fleamarket and soon will reopen at the house on U.S. 19, the one with the big "K'' on the front.

Bob and Ruth bought it in the early 1970s when the road out front, U.S. 19, was just a few lanes. Now it's six lanes.

"She knew the area was going to explode with population,'' said Shirley, 55.

Ruth began her readings as a girl traveling with her mother in carnivals. Her grandparents knew Bob's grandparents from Romania, and they helped put Ruth and Bob together.

"Arranged marriages were very common in our culture,'' explained Bob, 84. "We fell very much in love, so I'd say it worked. We were married 62 years.''

They discovered eastern Pasco after working carnivals in Orlando. They settled on 7 acres near U.S. 301 in 1962 and raised chickens, cows and pigs while Madame Kinney built her base. Kinney was her Romanian name.

The Johnsons had five children, all of whom graduated from Pasco High School. The family stood out. "There weren't any other Romanians in Dade City,'' Shirley said. "But we didn't experience any prejudice. It was a good place to grow up.''

Johnson is not exactly a Romanian name. Bob explained that it evolved from his grandfather, whose first name was John. "People would say go see John and sons, and it stuck.'' He said the family name was Uwanawich, but he wasn't sure of the spelling.

"We've been Johnsons forever,'' he said.

He enjoyed running his wife's business and dealing with politicians, even helping in campaigns. But Bob kept in the background and designed advertising campaigns that labeled Madame Kinney "a gifted spiritualist medium superior to any reader you have every consulted.''

In a story in the Times years ago, she offered her own assessment of her talent. "You see things, you feel things and know things, but they have to be presented to the client in a way that he or she can handle and understand … It takes years of experience to learn how to apply the gift.''

"Nobody did it better,'' said her husband. "Nobody.''

If you go

Madame Kinney's studio is open at 13240 U.S. 19 in Hudson. For information, call (727) 863-2229.

>>if you go

Studio reopening

Madame Kinney's studio is open at 13240 U.S. 19 in Hudson. For information, call (727) 863-2229.

Madame Kinney, the psychic, is no more, but daughters will carry on 04/01/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 1, 2014 8:50pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. No touchdown, but fun lesson for Bucs' Adam Humphries

    Bucs

    It didn't end up being a touchdown, but one of the Bucs' biggest hustle plays in Thursday's win over Jacksonville saw receiver Adam Humphries scoop up a loose ball just before halftime, after what looked like an incompletion but was correctly ruled a Jameis Winston fumble.

    Bucs WR Adam Humphries runs to the end zone with QB Jameis Winston trailing -- his alert play wasn't a touchdown because teammates cannot advance a fumble in the final two minutes of a half.
  2. Bucs' Demar Dotson should be back from injury next week

    Bucs

    The Bucs got good news on starting right tackle Demar Dotson, whose MRI showed only a mild right groin sprain and should be back at practice next week.

    Bucs tackle Demar Dotson, shown last year when he signed a three-year contract extension, should only miss a week of practice with his groin injury and can return healthy for the Bucs' season opener at Miami in three weeks. [Octavio Jones | Times]
  3. Comedy legend Jerry Lewis dead at 91

    Obituaries

    LOS ANGELES — Jerry Lewis, the manic, rubber-faced showman who jumped and hollered to fame in a lucrative partnership with Dean Martin, settled down to become a self-conscious screen auteur and found an even greater following as the tireless, teary host of the annual muscular dystrophy telethons, has died. He was …

    In this Sept. 2, 1990, file photo, entertainer Jerry Lewis makes his opening remarks at the 25th Anniversary of the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon fundraiser in Los Angeles. Lewis, the comedian whose fundraising telethons became as famous as his hit movies, has died according to his publicist. [Associated Press]
  4. Mastermind of lottery rigging scam that netted millions faces 25 years

    Nation

    DES MOINES, Iowa — For a decade, computer programmer Eddie Tipton reliably showed up for work at the central Iowa office of the Multi-State Lottery Association and earned the confidence of his co-workers, a team of technicians entrusted to build computers used to randomly pick numbers for some of the most popular …

    FILE - In this June 29, 2017, file photo, Eddie Tipton, the former Multi-State Lottery Association information security director who admitted to masterminding a scheme to rig lottery games that paid him and others $2 million from seven fixed jackpots in five states, is seen in court in Des Moines, Iowa. Tipton is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday, Aug. 22. (Rodney White/The Des Moines Register via AP, File) IADES501
  5. Pasco County man killed in wrong-way crash on New Jersey Turnpike

    Accidents

    MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. — Authorities say a Florida man driving the wrong way on the New Jersey Turnpike was killed when his SUV crashed head-on into another vehicle.