William “Bill” Johnston of Burford passed away peacefully on May 25 at St. Joseph’s Lifecare Center in Brantford in his 69th year. Bill was the adoring husband of Betty (nee Stickle) for 46 years, and loving father of: Matthew of Ferndale, MI, and grandchildren Mason and Austin; David (Emma) of Burford and grandchildren Hayden, Zachary, and Charlotte; Nathan (Kathryn) of Sackville, NB, and grandchildren Cora and Devon. He is survived by siblings Laurel (Bob) Harrison, Kathy Winegard, and Paul (Diana) Johnston, and predeceased by his parents Douglas and Marjorie. He will be missed by sister- and brother-in-law, Carol and David Elliott, and many nieces and nephews.
Bill was born on November 11, 1951, in Owen Sound to Douglas, a representative for the Milk Marketing Board of Ontario, and Marjorie, a homemaker and employee of the Grand River Sachem Newspaper. The family moved from Owen Sound to Paris and then to Walkerton before finally settling in Caledonia, where he attended high school and met the love of his life, Betty Ann Stickle. They were married at McMaster Divinity Chapel by Norm Perry on May 11, 1974. Bill attended Trinity College at the University of Toronto, obtaining a B.Sc. in Mathematics. He then worked as a Trust Officer at National Trust in Toronto from 1974 to 1980, a Senior Editor for the Grand River Sachem from 1980 to 1981, and as the Managing Editor for the Paris This Week, Norwich Gazette, and Burford Advance from 1982 to 1985. During that time Bill also earned certification in Investment Planning and Law.
Bill and Betty founded the independently-run Burford Times newspaper in October 1985, after Otter Publishing abruptly closed the Burford Advance. Over the next 35 years, the paper was a strong voice for issues of importance to the Burford community. During this time, Bill was an active member of the Burford Optimist Club, an associate member of the Royal Canadian Legion #543, member of the Kinsmen Club Paris-Brant, member of several school committees linking home to school initiatives, and member of the Brantford and Area Chamber of Commerce. In his later years, Bill focused much of his attention to educational advocacy. He was a Grand Erie District School Board trustee from 2000-2013, serving as the Chair of the Board, Vice Chair of the Ontario Public School Board Association, and Chair of the SouthWestern Region of the Ontario Public School Board Association.
Over the past four years, Bill met some remarkable people that deserve special thanks for their compassion and care while he has been struggling with his health. The nursing staff at Brantford General Hospital, Hamilton General Hospital, The Willett, and St. Joseph’s LifeCare Center, have all been angels of mercy. Special thanks to Kim Smith (PSW) for the special care she has shown Bill. Dr. Kalra and the staff at St. Joseph’s Life Care Center provided Bill with extraordinary care while he was there for the last 8 months. During his health journey he was fortunate to meet many extraordinary people on their own health journey and was able to develop special friendships with many of them.
Bill will be remembered for his “Off the Cuff” columns he wrote in the Burford Times for many years. On March 22, 1995 he wrote a column that described Bill as many people will remember him. Some of that column follows here: “Betty has told me she married me for my brain. I used to think that she meant she admired my scholastic achievements, my keen sense of logic reasoning, or perhaps my photographic memory. But no, it just turns out she likes a challenge. How is it she wonders, that this man can do calculus with imaginary numbers, and yet he can’t remember to put his coat on before he goes outside? How is it he can spell Albuquerque but can’t tie a shoe lace unless the shoe is on him? How is it that so much dumbness and so much smartness can reside together in the same cranium?” Bill Johnston will be remembered for his love and dedication to his family and community, his love to laugh and make people laugh, his passion for excellent education, and his love for delivering the news to the people of Burford through the Burford Times.
A celebration of life event will be scheduled when it is safe again to congregate. Arrangements entrusted to the Keith Ovington Funeral Home, 134 King Street, Burford, Ontario. In lieu of flowers or cards, donations may be made to the Bill Johnston Memorial Award Fund (e-transfer to BJEducationalTrust@gmail.com. The award will be given to Burford District Elementary School students who have demonstrated leadership, compassion, and academic excellence. Keith Ovington 519-449-1112 www.keithovington.ca