Cynthia (Cindy) Marie Pellegrini Johnson, 49, of Washington, D.C., passed away on July 26, 2019 following a valiant, two-year battle with ovarian cancer. She was a model of how to live life in service to others.
Cindy was born in Manchester, CT to Earlene and Gary Pellegrini. She was valedictorian of her class at Ellington High School in Ellington, CT and graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in political science from College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA. While in college she met her future husband, Jason Johnson, who she married at the St. Joseph Chapel at Holy Cross in 1995.
After graduating from college, Cindy embarked on a career on Capitol Hill that spanned more than a decade. She first worked for then-Rep. Jay Inslee during his first term as a U.S. congressman. She then served in the office of the late Rep. Gerald “Jerry” Kleczka of Wisconsin. In these offices, she managed a diverse portfolio of issues including financial services, agriculture, and forestry, but she increasingly gravitated to her true passion: health care policy.
In 1995, Cindy joined the office of the late Rep. Louise Slaughter of New York state, where she developed initiatives in genetic nondiscrimination, women’s health research, and other aspects of health care reform. Her intellect and stamina were rewarded as she rose to the top position as chief of staff. In that role, Cindy helped draft the historic Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, which prohibits insurers and employers from using genetic information to discriminate against policyholders and employees.
After her career in Congress, Cindy devoted herself to nonprofit advocacy, where she was a steadfast champion for those whose voices were often excluded or overlooked. She had an unassailable faith in the power of sound, well-researched public policy and that government can be a force for good. While at the federal affairs office of American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) she led the charge to ensure that benefits for preventive care for children were covered as a no-cost preventative service in the Affordable Care Act. Millions of children enjoy free preventative health screenings because of her advocacy. At AAP, she also helped end the dangerous use of lead in children’s toys.
Most recently, Cindy worked tirelessly on behalf of mothers, babies, and families at the March of Dimes where, as the organization’s lead public policy strategist, she was at the forefront of the legislative response to the Zika virus and helped secure reauthorization of the PREEMIE Act and Newborn Screening Saves Lives Act.
Cindy completed a Baldridge Executive Fellows program in 2018 and was the recipient of numerous honors and awards. She wrote extensively on the subjects of federal public health care policy and preparedness. Other organizations sought her counsel and Cindy gave generously of her time. She served as the consumer representative on the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention where she fostered the development of new approaches to consumer involvement. She also served on several boards of directors, including the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and Lubuto Library Partners. Cindy was a member of multiple public policy advisory committees, working groups, and commissions throughout her distinguished career in public service.
While Cindy dedicated her professional life to supporting all families, her true happiness came from spending time with her own family and community. She derived more joy from being with her close-knit family than she did from all of the professional accolades that were showered upon her. She reveled in her children's accomplishments, big and small, and joyfully celebrated every step, every performance, and every competition. She sang beautifully—even in the middle of chemotherapy treatments—in the choir of St. Peter’s Catholic Church of Capitol Hill for 25 years and volunteered at numerous organizations across her community. She loved walking to museums on the weekends, traveling far and wide with her family, and getting her hands dirty in the garden growing lettuce and green beans for the dinner table. Her priorities were God, her family and her community, and she endeavored every day to live in alignment with those values.
Cindy is survived by her husband, Jason, and their children Ethan and Camilla Johnson of Washington, DC. She is also survived by her mother and father, Earlene and Gary Pellegrini of Ellington, CT; her brother and sister-in-law, Joseph and Christine Pellegrini, her nephews Andrew, Adrian, and Grady Pellegrini, and niece Lilly Mitchell. Her extended family, legions of friends, colleagues and neighbors whose lives she made better with her work, her gifts and her love also mourn her passing.
Visitations and the funeral service will be held at St. Peter’s Catholic Church on Capitol Hill located at 313 2nd Street, SE, Washington, DC. Visitations will be held on Friday evening, August 2 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm and Saturday morning, August 3 from 8:30 to 9:30 am. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held Saturday, August 3 at 10:00 am, followed by a funeral repast.
In lieu of flowers please consider supporting Cindy’s life's work with a donation to the March of Dimes (https://www.marchofdimes.org/giving/support-general.aspx) or to the John’s Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center where Cindy received such excellent care (https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/kimmel_cancer_center/our_center/charitable_giving/index.html).