WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS -- James (Jim) Murray Johnston, 65, born in Townsend on Nov. 2, 1945, passed away in White Sulphur Springs on Nov. 22, 2010.
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Raised on the family ranch at Butte Creek, north of town, Jim attended school in White Sulphur, graduating in 1963. He then attended college at Dennison University in Ohio before returning to work with his father at Butte Creek. During his early years, Jim lived many places, including time in Seattle while working for Boeing, but eventually returned to the state he loved and called home.
After graduating from the University of Montana in the spring of 1975, he married Brenda White in Browning on Aug. 9 and began teaching history and English while also coaching girls and boys basketball and cross-country at Browning High School. Jim formed many of his most important friendships during this time – friendships which lasted a lifetime.
In 1980, Jim was part of the coaching staff when the Browning Indians boys basketball team won the state title. While he was proud to be a part of this accomplishment, Jim recounted that time in the ensuing years with stories of all the students he worked with in and out of the classroom. He felt his students and experiences in Browning shaped him in an important way and enlarged his view of life. He was always eager to visit with former students and developed a great respect for them; he could list off their siblings, parents, grandparents, and extended families and derived great satisfaction in tracking their lives and accomplishments.
In 1983, Jim left teaching and entered into a title and escrow business, Potter & Co., in White Sulphur with his cousin and friend, Mike Johnston. Jim coached baseball and basketball teams in White Sulphur at various levels and during the years he wasn't coaching, followed high school sports closely – traveling around the state to watch his children, nieces, nephews, and "good teams" he'd heard about play the game he loved.
Jim was a kind and thoughtful man whose life pleasures varied greatly. A lover of books, music and art, he also enjoyed hunting, fishing, getting wood, berry picking, and visiting with old and new friends. He was especially proud of his children's and grandchildren's Blackfeet heritage and had taken to calling his grandchildren by their Indian names in practiced Blackfeet. Jim enjoyed watching his family participate at powwows and listening to drum music.
Although he no longer worked in the classroom, Jim made a lifelong commitment to education and issues of cultural and social equality – primarily those issues concerning Indian people in the state of Montana. He dedicated much time to this cause and it fit nicely with his interest in local and family history. Jim's drive to acquire and share knowledge to support and protect those in need was a gift to the people around him.
Jim is survived by his wife of 35 years, Brenda (White) Johnston; children, Maggie (Eddie) Johnston-Roatch and J. Murray Johnston; grandchildren, Duncan and Celena; mother, Neva Lou (Armour) Johnston; brothers Rick (Kathy) Johnston and Lewis Johnston; sisters Carlin (Don) Cameron and Maggie (Steve) Buckingham; and many nieces, nephews, cousins and in-laws for whom he loved and respected very much. He was preceded in death by his father, James M. Johnston.
Vigil services will be 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 26. Funeral services will take place at noon on Saturday, Nov. 27 at St. Bartholomew's Catholic Church in White Sulphur Springs with a coffee hour planned at the local senior citizen center to follow immediately. Twichel Funeral Home assisted the family with the services.
Twichel Funeral Home - White Sulphur Springs
103 E Garfield Street
White Sulphur Springs, MT 59645
Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle on Nov. 25, 2010