Jesse A Johnson

At Independence Squares Beach Party, Jan 1993

Jesse Alexander Johnson
aka James Joseph Januzzio
aka Miss Hissy Fitt
11 Jul 1955 - 07 Jul 1994
Independence Squares Memorial Panel 2LR
Times Squares


JOHNSON, JESSE A. (JANNUZZIO), July 7, 1994, survived by his companion Douglas Pierce, brother Tom Jannuzzio and sister Janet and ether family and friends. His Solemn Requiem will be held at St. Mark's Church, 1625 Locust St., Phila., Sat., July 23, 11:30 AM In lieu of flowers contributions may be made to St. Mary's Family Respite Center, 3916 Locust Walk, Phila., PA 19104.[1]

JESSE JAMES JOHNSON, also known as James J. Jannuzzio, 39, of Philadelphia, died July 7 of complications from AIDS at home.

Mr. Johnson worked for Philadelphia’s court system and the Philadelphia Public Library.

He is survived by two brothers, Thomas E. Jannuzzio of Wilmington and J. Wayne Evans of Old Fort, N.C.; two sisters, Janet Mercer of Wilmington and Carol Lowe of Arizona; and his companion, Douglas Pierce, at home.

A Requiem Mass will be offered at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 1625 Locust St., Philadelphia.

Instead of flowers, the family suggests contributions to St. Mary’s Respite Center — where he worked with HIV positive children — 3916 Locust Walk, Philadelphia.[2]


Jesse was a member of Independence Squares who also joined our club way back when, although he did not travel to NYC to dance all that often. I remember him as a big bear-hug of a man, with a very sweet Southern disposition. Independence Squares used to sponsor occasional Saturday night dances in New Hope, PA, with 2-stepping afterwards, and I have fond memories of dancing with Jesse there; he was an excellent country-western dancer.
Ken Braidi[3]

Jesse Johnson, the ultimate southern belle. Jesse hailed from North Carolina and was ever so proud of his southern roots. His alter-ego, Miss Hissy Fitt, was THE southern belle and never let you forget it. Jesse joined Independence Squares in 1989 (we stole him from Times Squares where he was also a member!) and he quickly became involved in any and all events that the club offered, even serving on the board of directors. He was irreverent, funny, loving, huggable, and a joy to be around. Nothing was ever done half-way with, Jesse. It was go big or go home. He was the consummate storyteller and had some amazing jokes. I will not relay any of them here except to mention two of them by title: “Wide-mouthed Frog” and “Knick-knack, Paddy Whack”. His facial expressions and accent sold whatever tale he was relaying.

One of our favorite memories of Jesse is when he spent the weekend at our place. We spent the day in New Hope, Pennsylvania and took a ride on the New Hope-Ivyland train. The weekend ended with Jesse rolling out home-made biscuits on our countertop and topping them with his red-eye gravy, YUMMY!

As a tribute to the kind of man Jesse was, at his memorial service, the current and all the previous presidents of Independence Squares showed up for his service. This was a truly remarkable event when you realize that at the end of each term, our presidents were often never seen again at a square dance event!

While gone for many years now, his stories are still retold in some fashion, but never in quite the same way as he told them. No one else has ever made biscuits for us in our kitchen. Our favorite southern belle, Miss Hissy Fitt, lives on in our memories and our tales of the good old days when both Jesse and Miss Fitt filled our lives with laughter and love.
Mike Rutkowski and Tim Harper[4]



  1. The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA) Monday, 18 Jul 1994, p.B3
  2. The News Journal (Wilmington, DE) Friday, 22 Jul 1994, p.B4
  3. Email, 24 Jun 2020
  4. Email, 15 Aug 2020