Robert Lee (Bob) Johnston, Jr. died Tuesday, June 24 in Mesquite, Texas at the age of 92. He died peacefully at Christian Care Center after a brief illness. He was known to his family and many others as Pop. A characteristic he was well known for, and never lost, was his wit and sense of humor. His optimism, cheerfulness, and kindness made him someone that others enjoyed being with.
Mr. Johnston was a longtime resident of Abilene. He was born June 10, 1922 in Spearman, Texas; the second of 3 children to R. L. Johnston, Sr. and Eula Storrs Johnston. He attended school in Boise City, Oklahoma, and after graduation attended business college in Amarillo, Texas.
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Bob enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He became a Signalman, serving aboard the USS Caldwell. April 27, 1946, Bob married Vivian M. (Vee) Skillings, a Navy WAVE he had first known in Oklahoma. They settled in Charleston, South Carolina, but soon returned to Oklahoma to engage in the grain business. Their first two children, Nina and Jeannie, were born during this period. Quite soon they moved to Abilene for Bob to attend Abilene Christian College on the GI Bill. While earning his BA in English and MA in Greek from ACC, and for years afterward, Mr. Johnston preached for small congregations, including the Church of Christ in Bend, Texas. Two more children were born in Abilene, Lowell and Alison, and he began teaching at ACC.
The family moved to Austin for Bob to pursue a doctoral degree in the Classics at the University of Texas. For some time he was director of the Bible Chair at the University Avenue Church of Christ. Their fifth child, Brian, was born in Austin. In 1961 they returned to Abilene, where Mr. Johnston taught Greek, Latin and Hebrew. R. L. Johnston, Jr. was a man of integrity with a great love of learning and a gift for teaching. His students have gone on to serve as ministers, missionaries, university professors, and mayor of Abilene. After his retirement from ACU, Mr. Johnston taught Latin in the Abilene Public Schools.
For many years Mr. and Mrs. Johnston were members of University Church of Christ. He was particularly interested in supporting ministries to Spanish speaking people, and made trips to Argentina and Mexico. Mr. Johnston remained a member of the U.S. Naval Reserve until he retired as a Master Chief, the highest enlisted rank. He was also involved for many years in scouting, both in his youth and when his sons were Boy Scouts. In addition, he was a Water Safety Instructor, teaching swimming classes and serving as a Life Guard. Later he joined the Kiwanis Club, and after studying family genealogy, he became a member of the Sons of the American Revolution. Mr. Johnston held offices in the Abilene chapter of SAR, and helped to establish the San Angelo SAR chapter.
The Johnston’s put their energies into their family, Abilene Christian, and the community of Abilene. They loved their neighbors on E.N. 23rd Street and the surrounding streets, visiting with everyone they met during their daily walks. They also made good friends at places they frequented, especially the Harvest Moon restaurant. Mr. Johnston enjoyed woodworking, and he made walking canes as gifts.
Bob Johnston grew up in the Oklahoma panhandle as the son of pioneer families. He had a deep affection for the people and the history of the plains, and for nature. He was a lifelong visitor to Red River, New Mexico, taking family members for summer vacations. In later years Mr. Johnston spent countless hours caring for his lawn and garden.
Mrs. Vee Johnston died in 2008, after 62 years of marriage. She had been ill for several years, and Bob cared for her at home and later at Windcrest Alzheimer’s Care Center. Since early 2010 Mr. Johnston has lived in Richardson, Texas with his daughter Jeannie Mayeux and her husband Randy.
Mr. Johnston was preceded in death by his parents, his sister Wilma Nell Saunders, and his wife Vivian. He is survived by a brother, William B. (Bill) Johnston of Sweetwater, Texas; daughters Nina Johnston, of Farmers Branch, Texas; Jeannie Mayeux and her husband Randy of Richardson, Texas; Alison Peden and her husband Glenn of Grapevine, Texas; sons Lowell Johnston and his wife Teresa of Abilene; Brian Johnston of Corona, California; 19 grandchildren, and 24 great-grandchildren. He was the best sort of man, and will be greatly missed and lovingly remembered. Mr. and Mrs. Johnston served their country proudly, and they arranged to be buried with other veterans in the Texas State Veterans Cemetery at Abilene.
Services will be held at the University Church of Christ, 733 EN 16th St. in Abilene on Friday, June 27, 2014 at 10:00a.m. Burial will follow in the Texas State Veterans Cemetery under the direction of Elliott-Hamil Funeral Home, 542 Hickory St. Visitation will be Thursday evening from 6:00 to 8:00p.m. at the funeral home.
Memorial gifts may be made to Abilene Christian University and sent to: ACU Box 29132, Abilene, Texas, 79699. Your gift will benefit the Arete Award, made to the outstanding 2nd year Greek student at ACU. In honor of Mr. Johnston, it is being renamed the R.L. Johnston, Jr. Award.