August 8, 1928 – October 31, 2020
JOHNSTON, Betty – Enfield, Nova Scotia. Passed away peacefully October 31 2020. She was 92 years old. Born in Canso in 1928, the daughter of the late Edith (Newnham) and Dr. Gordon Harris, Betty spent her long and rich life surrounded by loving family and friends in Nova Scotia and abroad. Betty met the modest, mild-mannered and handsome Derek Johnston at Dalhousie University in the late 1940s. Swept off her feet by Derek’s dry wit and quiet intelligent charm, Betty ceased her studies after a year, and the two were married at Bedford United Church. Moving frequently to follow Derek’s work as a mining geologist, Betty dedicated herself to providing a comfortable home for her three children. A gifted cook and homemaker, the table was always laid with a picture-perfect spread no matter the time of day. She collected china, glassware and centrepieces to suit every occasion, and by her later years had likely amassed enough to cater a wedding for 150 guests. Betty continually sought out all that was new and unique. She was a pioneer in the production of cooked animal organs, ostensibly to satisfy Derek’s broad palate. Although her children realized many years later that she herself was not a fan of such culinary choices, she prepared these dishes with such enthusiasm that with some unique exceptions gave us all a better appreciation for food. Derek’s work took the couple overseas in the early 1970s, first to Tehran, and then to London, where Betty reached the pinnacle of her entertainment prowess, opening the doors to her flat at 14 Bryanston Square to everyone. Upon their return home, visitors reported feeling they had been personally cared for by the Canadian ambassador himself. Whether in London or elsewhere she had an insatiable need to experience other places and other cultures, and was truly altruistic when it came to sharing her experiences with others. In 1984, Betty and Derek returned to Nova Scotia, and built a home on the shores of Grand Lake. At the Lake, Betty out-fished, out-swam and out-partied her proud husband, along with friends, family and fellow members of the “brickless” Grand Lake Yacht Club. The kind attention of these friends and neighbours played a significant role in her life, especially after Derek’s death. An accomplished tole painter, Betty made the ordinary beautiful, adorning (sometimes too many) household objects with floral patterns of her own design. Like her Welsh wilfulness, her creativity and love of beauty were probably inherited traits. Undaunted by life’s ebbs and flows, Betty embraced risk, whether it arrived in the form of raw chicken’s threat of salmonella poisoning or the unpredictability of living through the pre-revolution atmosphere in Iran. She never hesitated when called to a challenge. These gifts, together with her mischievous sense of humour, fierce loyalty, and appreciation of the finer things in life, were passed down in turn to her children and grandchildren. Betty loved Christmas and delighted in the preparations the celebration entailed. As the family’s most accomplished hostess, the holidays were her time to shine. Whether she was showing off her new electronic tree ornaments on Christmas morning or passing around yet another plate of hors d'oeuvres, her eyes lit up when she could provide enjoyment for others. After Derek’s passing in 1996, Betty continued to travel the world, embarking on many adventures with her dear friend Maisie Lugar. She enjoyed visiting with friends and family, and was enchanted by the new babies of her many loved ones. She remained, perhaps stubbornly, at the Lake until 2018, haunted by hemlock needles tracked into the house by visitors, and the squirrels that sometimes followed at their peril. Although Betty’s memory and ability to communicate verbally declined towards the end of her life, she never lost her wit and character, and even after many years with dementia surprised unsuspecting visitors with quips and salty come-backs. Never satisfied to allow others to define her, Betty lived a rich life on her own terms. Betty leaves behind her daughters: Wendy Johnston, Lantz, and Barbara (Al) MacAulay, Shubenacadie, and her son Stephen Johnston, Grand Lake, as well as her granddaughters, Megan, Patricia, and Kathleen MacAulay, and Mary-Dan and Lindsay Johnston. She is also remembered by her sister Gwyneth (Les) Davies of Fredericton, her sisters- and brothers-in-law Doris Harris, Carolyn Harris, Timothy (Barb) Johnston, and David Webb, as well as her many adored nieces and nephews. Betty was predeceased by her husband Derek, her brothers Don, Ian, and John Harris, her sister Alice Webb, and many loving friends. A celebration of Betty’s life will be held in summer 2021 at “The Lake”, where her friends and family can share the many stories that could never be captured on this page. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Alzheimer’s Society of Nova Scotia. Betty’s family wishes to thank the kind souls who cared for her over the past several years, from her hold-out at Grand Lake, to her time at Cedarstone in Truro, and finally at The Magnolia in Enfield. They truly deserve our sincere appreciation for the constancy of their efforts in providing Betty with the respect the elderly deserve.
No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.
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November 13, 2020
My sincere sympathy to Betty's family on the loss of your dear mother/grandmother.
I met Betty back when she came to live at the lake. It was always a pleasure to see her, run into her at the grocery store, or just chat with her on the phone.
We were amazed when my daughter and her granddaughter (Patricia) crossed paths at university in Ontario.
My memories of Betty will be treasured. She was a lovely lady.
Timothy and Barbara Johnston
November 9, 2020
We have so many fond memories of our times with Derek and Betty.
One of them was on our trip to London where they showed us such a good time. Betty was our tour guide through Old London and narrated all the major highlights and sites for us. She even took us to shop and Herrod’s of London. Tim wanted to purchase something, but since everything was so pricey, he settled on gold coloured golf tees which he shared as souvenirs with his golfing buddies back home.
The ride on the Night Scottsman’s train to Strontain, the beautiful inn, and the sights in the highlands were so enjoyable with Derek and Betty as our travel companions.
Back at their flat in London, Betty created such lovely meals from the purchases of our daily trips to the markets. One of her meals, was sweet breads that she made for Tim. This is a difficult meal to prepare and Betty didn’t even like them, but she always made sure that her guests were fully satisfied and happy.
Such great times and wonderful memories.
Tim and Barb Johnston