William Vernon Johnston passed away peacefully on January 1, 2017 at Aljoya Retirement Community on Mercer Island surrounded by his loving family. A devoted husband, a calm and gentle father, a good humored and amiable friend to many, his loving presence will be missed by all who were so fortunate to know him.
Bill was born in Casper, Wyoming on August 22,1925 to Walter David and Renan King Johnston. After serving in the Navy, he attended the University of Colorado in Boulder where he earned a degree in Electrical Engineering. There he became an expert skier, a passion which he enjoyed until 2016! On the slopes he met his bride Elizabeth Studwell Mead from Scarsdale, New York, a beautiful English major with a passion for knitting ski sweaters! Bill and Betty were married June 28,1952.
Upon graduation the happy couple moved to Pittsfield, MA where he started his thirty year long career with General Electric. Four years later, with two young children they moved to Spokane, Washington and finally to Seattle where they settled on Mercer Island in their home of the last 58 years and had their third child.
Spending time in the wilderness was his greatest passion. He spent many childhood summers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming climbing and fishing with his brother David K. Johnston. An avid mountaineer, he scaled the Grand Teton in Wyoming, Mount Rainier, and all the major volcanic peaks in Washington. During the 1960’s he lead a successful Boy Scout Troop fostering a deep love of the wilderness in his son Jeffrey and his comrades during long summer hikes.
In 1969 Bill designed and built a stunning authentic Bavarian chalet in the Alpental Ski resort at Snoqualamie Pass for his skiing/hiking/fishing family, as a weekend retreat. Later Bill and Betty would travel to Europe to ski the Alps over a ten year period.
After voyages to Tahiti, the Caribbean, Europe, Africa and New Zealand Bill continued to enjoy trout and salmon fishing. He was an active participant in the Northwest Flyfishing Association and participated in regular guided trips with them. In recent years with a twinkle in his eye he would say,“I don’t tell them how old I am, if I did they wouldn’t let me come on the trips!”
Here on Mercer Island he will be most missed as a devoted member and honorary nonagenarian of Fran Call’s energetic walking group, the Sole Mates. Every Wednesday he would show up with his walking sticks and a smile. Thank you to Fran for inspiring the Johnston family with intentional fitness for life.
Bill leaves behind his loving wife, Betty; their son, Jeffrey Mead Johnston (Carrie), of Sisters, Oregon; Alison Johnston Lohrey, of Friday Harbor, WA; Beverly Johnston Howe (Wil), of Richland, Oregon; and four grandchildren, Amelia Powell Baggett (Adam); Orion Johnston Powell (Chelsea); Mary Morgan Lohrey; Robin Arthur Lohrey; and three great grandchildren, Onyx Orion Powell; Zephyr Christopher Osiris Powell; and Rowan Michael Lohrey.
A memorial service in honor of Bill will be held later this spring. In lieu of flowers please consider a donation to Western Rivers Conservancy at www.westernrivers.org.