Born in the northern mining town of Cobalt, ON, Bob was the youngest of Jack and Mary Johnston’s 13 children. The untimely death of Jack at the onset of the Great Depression plunged the family into deep poverty, but ingrained in Bob values that would remain with him throughout his life: never needlessly waste anything, be grateful for everything you receive, take pleasure in spending time with family, help yourself and others, and above all, love and fear God.
From a young age, Bob showed signs of intelligence and sensitivity. He excelled at school, being promoted directly from first to third grade, and then from third to fifth grade. He was a natural musician, playing guitar and singing alongside his brother Elwood on local radio station CKMC from the age of eight. At the age of 14, Bob relocated with his mother to Oshawa as his sisters found work in the munitions plants supporting Canada’s war effort and his brothers left for the battlefields of France and Italy. He attended Oshawa Collegiate briefly before leaving to also join the workforce to support himself and his mother.
Bob’s early working life was varied and frenetic. He held 15 different jobs before the age of 22, working as a bicycle delivery boy, shipping clerk, baker’s assistant, truck driver and taxi driver, to name just a few. He did a short stint in the Royal Canadian Air Force before being discharged due to severe asthma. At this time, he also moved back and forth between Oshawa, where most of his family resided, and northern Ontario, which his doctors advised was better for his asthma. During his stays in the north, he worked as a silver and gold miner and as a logging truck driver.
With his marriage to his lifelong partner Ruth in 1950, Bob finally began to settle into a steady work life. Bob joined the civil service with Canada Post, eventually transferring to Canada Customs and becoming manager of the Clinton, Ontario post. Though he enjoyed government work, he felt he needed something more, and in 1963 he returned to Oshawa to embark upon the career in real estate that he would enjoy for more than 25 years. He learned the trade working for his mentor Lloyd Metcalf at Metcalf Real Estate, and then in 1967 he went on his own to establish Bob Johnston Realty. The firm would eventually grow beyond Oshawa to a network of offices in Uxbridge, Bala, Sturgeon Falls, North Bay and Earlton. As the focus of his business increasingly turned to commercial property he learned it was not management but selling that he most enjoyed. In 1975 he contracted the business to a single office and dedicated the remainder of his career to operating as an individual producer, at which he continued to work until his retirement in 1991.
Despite his busy and successful career, it did not define him, and Bob always made time for life outside of work. Bob was a fixture at his children’s sporting and school events and observed many annual rituals with the family including the construction of the backyard ice rink, the Christmas jigsaw puzzle, summer camping trips, and attending the CNE airshow and Toronto Sportsmen’s Show, among many others. His comedic nature was frequently on display at family events (sometimes to the distraction of Ruth) and his humour will be fondly remembered by all who knew him.
Bob was raised in the church and was born again into a life with Jesus as a young adult. Together with Ruth, Bob diligently educated his children in the Word of God, and constantly reinforced his wonder of His many works and of the need for gratitude. Faith was the pillar of Bob’s strength throughout his long life. As he neared his end in this world, he affirmed to his family that he had no fear of death as he expected to be welcomed into eternity by his loving Saviour. He went home to be with the Lord in great peace and serenity, with his beloved son Tim at his bedside.
Bob leaves behind Ruth, his loving wife of 67 years, and his children Steven (Joan), Paul (Karen), Murray, Beverley Johnston (Geoffrey), Timothy (Caroline), Laurel Petrovic (Darcy) and Sean (Ryoko). He will be dearly remembered by grandchildren Curtis and Lauren; Meagan, Vanessa and Matthew; Courtney; Jennifer, Andrew, William, James and Michael; Gillian, Rachel and Nicholas; Carlene, Bronson and Sydney; Emma and Kai, and many nieces and nephews.
Bob’s Homegoing Celebration will take place on Saturday September 1st, 2018 at 2:00pm in the Chapel at Chartwell Hawthorn Residence located at 6411 – 199 Street NW, Edmonton, Alberta.