Waterford - Donald Warren Johnston, 94, of Waterford, passed peacefully at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital on Wednesday, April 23, 2014, with his loving family at his bedside.
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Born on Jan. 19, 1920, in Manchester, he was the son of Dennis Rock Johnston and Lillian (Warren) Johnston and the beloved husband of Elizabeth (Good) Johnston, with whom he shared two most fortunate daughters, Donna Johnston of Groton and Linda Johnston of Bozrah.
A 1940 graduate of Chapman Technical High School, Don loved to tell the story of how Betty Good caught his eye one fateful day as she was walking down the street. Turning to his buddies, he confidently announced, "I'm going to marry that girl some day." Once he struck up a conversation with her at Rudd's dance hall, he set to work making good on that boast. Dancing to the sweet sounds of Glenn Miller, the two made beautiful music together. By the time the ring was on her finger, nothing could separate them but his enlistment in the Army Air Corps during World War II. And by the time he came home, nothing would ever separate them again. Proving that the music never stopped for them, their epic love story inspired the song "Making New Love Out of Old," recorded by the Grammy-nominated duo of Roy Rogers and Norton Buffalo in 2002. On Sept. 8, 2013, they celebrated their seventieth wedding anniversary.
An exemplary husband and father, Don never wavered in his devotion to his family. As a man of his generation, he wanted his wife to be able to give up her banking job in order to stay home with their daughters, even if it meant that he sometimes worked three jobs in the first decade of their marriage to make ends meet. A highly skilled draftsman, machinist, and mechanic, he was employed by Pratt & Whitney, the Naval Underwater Systems Center, Blonder's Auto Parts, and Larry's Machine Shop during his career.
As time went on and he found himself able to scale back to just one job, Don devoted his spare time to community service. Volunteering at the Cohanzie Fire Department, he chaired the annual fair committee, pitched for the softball team, organized and produced the quarter midget racing events on Friday nights, and drove the safety vehicle at the Waterford Speed Bowl on Saturdays, with his family in attendance to support his efforts in all of these activities. He also served as assistant chief of the department for many years.
In 1965 Don was elected to the Waterford RTM and served for just one term. That was all it took for him to realize that his proud Irish temperament and fierce commitment to principle made him eminently unsuited for a career in politics!
As the saying goes, when one door closes, another opens. Don joined the Masons and diligently worked his way through the ranks, eventually serving as worshipful master of Union Lodge #31 and maintaining his membership for almost fifty years.
When a massive heart attack forced his early disability retirement at the age of 56, Don found the adjustment to a more leisurely lifestyle a particularly difficult one. True to his nature, however, he took up the hobby of amateur radio with a vengeance. Any questions he might have had about his ability to be a productive member of society were resoundingly answered when his ham radio skills enabled him to spend a week coordinating rescue communications and efforts between the U. S. Coast Guard and a family stranded at sea in the Caribbean. He spent so much time on the radio that he lost his voice, but he was instrumental in finding and saving the family of three. A citation from the State of Connecticut General Assembly recognizing his six days of tireless effort and selfless devotion hangs on a wall in his home.
In addition to his wife and daughters, Don is survived by three nephews, two nieces, and three "honorary" daughters.
He was predeceased by a sister, Margery Darling.
The family extends its heartfelt gratitude to Drs. Robert Perry, William Colom and John Madsen, Nurses Alyssa McGill and Bruce Patterson, neighbors Melvin and Kathleen Reagan, Chaplain Bob Price, and the staff of L+M Hospital and its Pequot facility for their compassionate care and support..
The funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday, at the Byles Memorial Home, 99 Huntington St., New London. Interment will follow in Jordan Cemetery, Waterford. Calling hours will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday, at the funeral home with Union Lodge #31 A.F.&A.M. conducting a Masonic Memorial Service at 6 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory may be made to the Lawrence + Memorial Hospital Development Fund, 365 Montauk Ave., New London, CT 06320.
Please visit www.Byles.com to sign the guestbook or to share a memory.
Published in The Day on Apr. 27, 2014