Harriet Genne Arnold Johnston

October 23, 1940November 23, 2021

Harriet Eugenia Arnold Johnston (Genne) passed away on November 23, 2021, surrounded by her family.

GeGe, as her enthusiastic grandchildren nicknamed her, was born on October 23, 1940, in Pulaski, Tennessee, to Harriet and Foster Arnold. She maintained a deep, devoted love for her childhood home in Tennessee, and one of her favorite pastimes was driving through the beautiful “hills of Tennessee and Giles County,” as she liked to say.

She was a proud graduate of Vanderbilt University, following in her mother’s footsteps of graduating from Peabody University in the 1920s. She came from a family that placed a great value on higher education. Later in life, after being out of school for many years, she went back to the University of Alabama and obtained a Masters of Library and Information Studies degree, an accomplishment of which she was very proud. She worked for years as a reference librarian for Athens State University and Calhoun Community College. GeGe was as smart as she was curious, and she would often ask more questions than could possibly ever be answered, to family and strangers alike.

Genne was an also an intrepid traveler—Alaska, Maine, Wyoming, California, Vermont, New York, Europe, Hong Kong…the list goes on. If you asked her to go, she wanted to go. She had a true zest for life, and she lived it with complete curiosity and fascination. But for all of her distant travels, her true love of place came close to home on the Elk River. That’s where Genne found solace, spirit, love and peace. The Elk provided her family and friends with a place to come together, and she adored it. Genne truly loved and valued her Athens community. She was involved in book clubs, garden clubs, supper clubs, the hand-bell choir at First Methodist Church, and the Athena League (charter member and past president). She also took particular pride in the First National Bank of Pulaski, Tennessee. Her father, Foster Arnold, was a board member of the bank and spent his entire career there. GeGe loved her family, fiercely. She was a proud family historian, and she could tell you her family lineage from heart. She had some knowledge, it seemed, of every single relative. For much of her life, she was either chasing her children or her grandchildren somewhere, and she loved them all dearly. GeGe simply made life better for us all and carefully cultivated, by example, the way for her children and grandchildren to go forth in this world.

She is survived by her four children—Sally Johnston Shelly, her husband Mitch Shelly and grandchildren Mitchell Johnston Shelly and Harriet Swann Shelly; Neal Swann Johnston Jr., his wife Patti Martin Johnston, and grandchildren Jacob Neal Johnston and Shelby Lee Johnston; Genie Johnston Woodroof, her husband Charles Chadwick Woodroof, and grandchildren Foster Chadwick Woodroof and Johnston Murray Woodroof; and Keith Arnold Johnston. Genne was preceded in death by her sister, Susan Lillard Arnold, who died as an infant, and her father Foster Eldridge Arnold and her mother, Harriet Calhoun Murray.

The family will receive friends on Monday, November 29, from 11:30 am until 12:45 pm at First United Methodist Church Beasley Center in Athens. A service will follow at 1:00 pm in the church sanctuary. A private family burial will take place in Pulaski.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you make a donation in honor of GeGe to:

The Athens-Limestone Public Library Foundation 603 S Jefferson St Athens, AL 35611


Peace, Love and Animals 19135 Nuclear Plant Rd Tanner, AL 35671 venmo@peaceloveandanimals


  • Visitation

    Monday, November 29, 2021

  • Funeral Service

    Monday, November 29, 2021


Harriet Genne Arnold Johnston

have a memory or condolence to add?

Judy Stinnett

November 28, 2021

I enjoyed working w/Ms. Genne at ASU Library. She had a loving and beautiful spirit. My deepest sympathy to the Johnston family in your time of loss.

Jerry & Louise Todd

November 26, 2021

Our sympathy in the earthly loss of your sweet mother, We will always remember her as a loving, spirited, friendly lady— always with a smile on her face. You have many memories to cherish and a path to light your way as you follow her example. Our thoughts and prayers will be with you. Sincere sympathy,
Jerry & Louise Todd