On May 6th, 2019 Elizabeth Mead Johnston (Betty as she was known by all) 89, passed on peacefully and quietly with her family at her side at Sunrise Senior Living of Mercer Island. Betty was born on February 17th, 1930 in Scarsdale, New York, the daughter of Elizabeth Young Mead and David Irving Mead.
Betty grew up enjoying the out of doors cherishing most her summers in the small upstate village of Waccabuc, New York. Founded by the Meads and filled with extended family, she enjoyed the beautiful lake there to swim in and sail on with her brothers, horses to ride, and fox hunts to partake in with her sister. The beautiful woods surrounding the family home called “Meeko” or “little red squirrel” fostered her love of nature, wild flowers and birdwatching.
Betty attended Emma Willard School in Troy, N.Y. and Berkshire School Junior College in Sheffield, MA. She then worked as a dental assistant and for the Reader’s Digest. Learning to ski in the winter in New England, she decided to venture west and attend the University of Colorado in Boulder where she would follow her passion for skiing on much steeper and deeper pistes! At U of C she earned her Bachelors degree in English Literature. Betty was a wonderful witty poet and traditional letter writer as well as a brilliant editor always cheerfully available to suggest the correct spelling or offer her skills to write articles for the Mercer Island Reporter during her daughter Alison’s Cyclemate II bicycle trip.
While in Boulder she also became an avid knitter and enjoyed making hats and sweaters for her skiing friends. One of these friends was William Vernon Johnston. We don’t know if the sweater came first or second, but they fell madly in love with each other. Betty and the handsome, young, electrical engineer and husband to be, from Casper, Wyoming along with their group of adventurous skiing friends escaped to Sun Valley, Idaho for spring break where Bill proposed to her on a ski lift! A woman ahead of her times, she and Bill enjoyed the sport together their entire life, and with their children, and she continued to ski well into her 80’s!
After they were married in 1952, Betty became the adoring mother of her three children; Jeffrey, Alison and Beverly. She spent many summers at Mercerdale Pool or Luther Burbank Park making sure they learned to swim as she had, and being involved with the PTA and as a den mother for Cub Scouts. Betty enjoyed her time in the mountains and the ocean camping with her family. There she kept the campfire going for the returning creel of trout or cooler of King salmon to be cooked. She was a loving and patient wife to her avid, fisherman husband, Bill and she and their family shared many wild salmon fishing adventures on the Pacific ocean at La Push, WA. By also taking ample craft supplies, she’d inspire her young artists she fostered while on those camping outings.
In addition to inspiring her children to explore their creativity through her interest in arts and crafts, sewing and quilting, flower gardening, and wildflower and bird identification, Betty at 38, finally fulfilled a lifelong dream and bought herself a horse. Reliving her childhood, she enjoyed riding “Nick”, English style through the open fields of Mercer Island sharing her love of horses with her youngest daughter Beverly.
After passing the spirit of independence onto her children, Betty’s passion turned to a 45 year love affair with Keeshonds; a beautiful, affectionate breed of dog. She and Bill devoted themselves to 4 wonderful dogs and actively participated in the regional Pacific Crest Keehond Club, the PCKC. There she served as secretary for twenty years and president for one year, showing her second Keeshond to his AKC Championship. Betty’s most fulfilling role was being in charge of the Keeshond club’s Rescue and Adoption program.
Betty became well known on the north end of Mercer Island, particularly the First Hill neighborhood, and the dog park at the Lid Park where she was regularly seen walking and chatting with her gorgeous, “one of a kind” fluffy grey Keeshonds. Her last dog, Micah, Betty adopted in 2013 after she survived a bout with cancer. When she and Bill moved from their home of sixty plus years on 74th Street SE to Aljoya, their popularity spread to downtown Mercer Island. Betty and her dog, known as “Micah’s Ministry”, became a visible attraction that everyone young and old enjoyed.
Betty will fondly be remembered by her loving family and her neighborhood family on First Hill at 74th, 29th, 72nd and 32nd Streets and for two years by her friends at Aljoya and Sunrise. Preceded by the death of her husband Bill in January 2017, Betty is survived by her three children; Jeffrey Johnston and (wife Carrie Buchanan) of Sisters, Oregon, Alison Johnston Lohrey of Friday Harbor, Washington and Sauve, France, and Beverly Johnston Howe (husband Wil Howe) of Richland, Oregon and Cochise, Arizona. Her four grandchildren: Amelia Powell Baggett, Orion Johnston Powell, Mary Morgan Root, and Robin Arthur Lohrey and her four great-grand children will hold a very special place for their “Ami” as they called her, in their hearts.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Betty Johnston’s name to the Mercer Island Parks & Recreation, the King County Animal Shelter or the Pacific Crest Keeshond Club, www.pckclub.com. A Celebration of Life Memorial Service for Betty will be announced at a later date for later this summer or autumn on Mercer Island.