Charles Murray Johnston

April 1, 1926October 30, 2020

On Friday October 30, 2020 at 12:50 am our loving 90 year old mother, Lorna (nee Chaffey), bid farewell to the love of her life, Chuck, and our dear father in his 94th year. Lorna, the matriarch of our family, put her heart and soul into ensuring our dad would die in the comfort of our childhood home in Ancaster. Our parents were known as “The Chuck and Lorna Show” as they were a comedic duo, loved by all, and were never apart for 67 years. The show will go on in all of our hearts.

Chuck was born at home in Hamilton on 1 April 1926 (yes, April Fool’s Day), the son of Lawrence and Kathleen (Hunt) Johnston and the younger brother of Robert (Bob) Johnston. Chuck grew up in the friendly surroundings of Balmoral Street in the East end of Hamilton. Chuck attended Memorial School, Delta Collegiate Institute, as it was then called, and McMaster University, from which he graduated with a BA in Honour History in 1949. He then proceeded on a scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania where he obtained his PhD in 1954. A few months later he started teaching at McMaster in the History Department. He retired as Professor Emeritus in 1988. Along the way, Chuck was a summer exchange professor at West Virginia University and a Commonwealth-Studies Fellow at Duke University. While in harness, he wrote several books, among them, a documentary history of the Grand River Six Nations, a prize-winning biography of Ontario Premier E.C. Drury and a 2 vol. history of McMaster. He served on several public boards and committees, including the Archaeological and Historic Sites Board of Ontario. In his retirement year he co-wrote (with friend and colleague Dr. Jim Greenlee) a book on British missionaries and imperialism. He was also named a Distinguished Alumni Scholar in Arts. Chuck delighted in compiling his World War Two Honour Roll Project, where he completed the biographies of all those McMaster students and graduates who never returned from World War Two. One of them being his former teacher from Memorial, Charles W. MacDonald, who inspired Chuck’s love of History and teaching.

Chuck, and his beloved wife, met at the young ages of 22 and 26. Lorna was his best pal, wise confidante, and indispensable research partner both at home and overseas, as well as a keen and constant supporter of everything he undertook.

Chuck is also survived by four dear and responsive children and their respective spouses: Brock and Libby (Toogood) Johnston, Kath and Terry Henry, Trish and George Mantik, and Kent. There is a cluster of equally beloved grandchildren: Melissa (Johnston) Sheardown, the wife of Marc Sheardown, Brent Johnston, the husband of Melanie (Precious) Johnston, Brandon Johnston, Morgan Henry, wife of Mark Butterworth, Sarah Godfrey, Olivia Mantik, partner of Kevin Willson, Matt Mantik, husband of Alexandra (Gallagher) Mantik, Jennifer Willis, Kathleen Willis, and Alex Willis. Thanks to Marc and Melissa Sheardown, Brent and Melanie Johnston, there are also 3 very engaging and active great grandson’s known as the “Little Greats”, named Hunter Sheardown (8 yrs), Nolan Sheardown (5 yrs), and Jacob Johnston (13 mths). It is Hunter that coined the phrase “The Greats” that led to the “The Big and little Greats”. Chuck was also predeceased by his ever supportive older brother, Bob, his widow, Helen and their son Dave (Carol). As well, the late Jack and Yvonne (Chaffey) Kempf who along with their brood of 4 (Jonna, Mark, Lee, and James) were intertwined into our daily lives; always up for fun, frolic, and no good.

Farewell Dearest Dad [Grandpa, “Grumpa”, The Great] To get through the best and the worst of times We will continue to view the world through your brilliant comedic lens. As you know...your love, laughter, and commitment for social justice will continue to live on through all of your children big and small Gone but never to be forgotten!

We wish to extend our gratitude to the medical team and the LHIN: Dr. Feng, Dr. Winemaker, Jennifer Morrit, Leanna Goodfellow-Newby, as well as, the extraordinary team of caring and compassionate PSWs and nurses: Patrick Okoules (who was with Chuck when he died), Amy, Amanda, May Southon, Kim West, Franklin, Jennifer, Gagandeep Kaur, Tajmila Furdous, Marilou Aya, Abbi Goddard, Chinky, Pamela Roopdeand, Nagib Masmoudi and all those other caring souls whose names we do not have on our list but we are grateful for your care. Chuck’s journey from home would not have happened without all of you!

Cremation has taken place. A private family service was arranged. A memorial to honour his life will take place April 1st, 2021

Online condolences may be made at

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William Morrison

November 26, 2020

Chuck Johnston was my favourite History prof. I took his Canadian History course in 1962-63. What made him special was that he was virtually the only prof who interacted on a personal level with his students. He had his class out to his house towards the end of the year, the only faculty member who did this in that era. I stayed in touch with him, and when I came to a conference at Mac in the late 80s, he took me out to lunch. I corresponded with him annually at Christmas, and was preparing another Christmas letter when I read this news. He had a terrific life, and I'm glad that he lived such a long one....

Tom Matthews

November 21, 2020

Over the years, Chuck was an unfailing inspiration to me and so many others. He was a dedicated scholar and wonderfully engaging teacher, but most important of all he was a man of heart. His love for Lorna, his family, his department, his university and his city were palpable. When you were talking to him, Chuck had that remarkable ability to make you feel that you were the only person in the room. His love, warmth, good humour and commitment to the less fortunate helped to make the world a better place. I always will be indebted to him.

Murray Lumley

November 13, 2020

I came to know Chuck and Lorna right after I retired from teaching for the Hamilton Board of Education in 1998, while Linda and I were living in Ancaster. I started doing things with the local NDP folks and met Lorna who was an impassioned NDPer. Of course then I met Chuck and can only say - what down to earth, caring people! We visited them in their home several times. Chuck actually assisted me a few years ago after we moved to Toronto. I asked him by email how to go about getting my father’s war record. He gave me the correct address and I ultimately got my father's papers.
Linda and I are very sorry to hear of Chuck's passing and our condolences to Lorna and all the family members.

Harvey Levenstein

November 7, 2020

Chuck was an accomplished scholar, teacher, and, most memorably for those of us in the History Department, certainly the funniest guy around. For many years, his ability to use humour to defuse potential conflicts played a major role in making our department an unusually convivial one. After retirement, his light-hearted contributions to our weekly pub lunches made them a high point of the week for our little group of aging historians.

Stefania Miller

November 6, 2020

Dear Lorna, What a wonderful tribute to Chuck, our friend and university colleague. We know that you will miss Chuck but we hope that memories of so many good years with him will console you. You also have very talented and loving children and grandchildren. Their tribute to Charles the Great and to you helped to ease the pain of his death. We look forward to sharing good memories with you at the Memorial on 1 April 2021. With love, John (Jack) Evans and Stefania Miller

Neville Thompson

November 4, 2020

Dear Lorna (and members of the family), I am very sorry to hear this. There is nothing here to knock the breast since Chuck lived such a long, full life. But he was one of those people who seemed as though they would go on forever and his death is a great break with the past. I remember him as an an inspiring teacher (1958-62), a fine colleague (1970-3) and throughout the decades a fine scholar and friend. Though neither of us would have guessed it at the time, the ideas he implanted grew into three books, the latest of which, on Churchill, Roosevelt and Mackenzie King, will be published in the spring. Sixty years ago I wrote an essay for Chuck on King'; mercifully I have forgotten what I said and regret not being able to make amends to Chuck by sending the new and improved iteration. Memories are the consolation of age and the remembrance of Chuck, including the example of the way he bore the infirmities of age with dignity and humour, will remain to the end of the journey. Good be with you; good be with you all.

dr. sid feldman

November 2, 2020

Lorna and Family:

Just received Chuck's obituary via . Barb Kirkaldy. Judi and I recall with fondness our many hours spent joking with you and Chuck (and Fran) at many of the gatherings at Ann and jack's place. Our deepest sympathies at his passing

Sid and Judi Feldman

Douglas Leighton

November 1, 2020

Dr. Johnston taught History 3c6 (Canada) at McMaster in the early 1960’s, a compulsory course for those of us in Honours History. He required those of us in the Honours Programme to undertake original research and shepherded us to the Ontario Archives in Toronto. I took the course in 1962-63, when we convoyed to Toronto, led by Dr. J. In his split-widow VW beetle, which on our first trip, shed a windshield wiper. That archival experience was an important part of my decision to pursue grad work and later a career as a historian.
My second strong memory of that year is of Chuck appearing at our first post-Christmas class in the lower lecture theatre in Mills Library, in a splendid bright-red V-neck sweater under his usual tweed jacket, to the applause of all 150 of us.
When I undertook doctoral work at Western in 1968, he was kind enough to provide a letter of reference. That in turn led to my own career at Huron University College from 1973 to 2016 teaching (mostly) Canadian History . I often recalled Chuck when giving classes.
What a wonderful, long life and career to celebrate. My warmest wishes to all of you in his family.

Kim Porter

November 1, 2020

My heartfelt condolences on the loss of Chuck. I will always remember his humor that I see he has passed on to his children.
His passing is a huge loss.
My thoughts and prayers are with you.
Kim (Neil) Porter

Carolyn (Neil) Wilson

October 31, 2020

My heartfelt sympathy to a very dear family , my cousins.. Always will remember Chucks humour, and the wonderful father and family man he was..Love and caring to all..


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