Barbara "Babs" Zimmermann Johnson, 84, of Lafayette Hill, a former officer with the CIA and longtime Philadelphia Zoo volunteer, died Wednesday, Nov. 30, at Chestnut Hill Hospital of lung cancer.
Mrs. Johnson grew up in Haverford, attended the Baldwin School in Bryn Mawr, and graduated from Chatham Hall in Chatham, Va.
After earning a bachelor's degree from Smith College in 1948, she taught first grade at Episcopal Academy for several years, then sought a more adventurous career, said a daughter, Alice J. Handwerk.
Mrs. Johnson joined the Central Intelligence Agency in Washington. For more than a decade, she was a reports officer, evaluating intelligence data collected by agents in the field.
In the early 1960s, she was posted to Amman, the capital of Jordan. There she met her future husband, Melvin T. Johnson, who was working for the State Department. They married in 1964 and lived briefly in Yemen before moving to Radnor in 1965.
After their government service, he became owner and operator of Maron Famous Candies in Philadelphia. She became a stay-at-home mom and community volunteer, giving her time to organizations such as the Radnor League of Women Voters.
Mrs. Johnson was an active member of St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Radnor, where she sang in the choir.
In 1986, she became a docent at the Philadelphia Zoo. For the next 25 years, she gave tours to youngsters and participated in the former "Zoo to You" program, visiting city public schools with a menagerie of animals.
She was devastated when a fire on Christmas Eve 1995 at the zoo's Primate House killed 23 animals, her daughter said, because she knew many of the victims.
A world traveler, Mrs. Johnson studied French, Arabic, and German. Late into her life, she continued to take classes, including Russian literature, her daughter said.
Mrs. Johnson was an avid bridge and tennis player and a member of the Gulph Mills Golf Club. She was a subscriber to the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Opera Company of Philadelphia.
In 2007, five years after her husband died, she moved from their home in Radnor to the Hill at Whitemarsh, a retirement community in Lafayette Hill.
Besides her daughter, she is survived by another daughter, Barbara Riley; a brother; a sister; and seven grandchildren.
A memorial service will be at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, at St. Martin's Church, 400 King of Prussia Rd., Radnor, Pa. 19087.
Donations may be made to the church or to the Philadelphia Zoo, 3400 W. Girard Ave., Philadelphia 19104.