The Obit For Albie Johnston

Albert Johnston

Published in Idaho Statesman on January 9, 2011

Albert A. Johnston, "Albie" to his family and friends, died at age 86 on January 7, 2011. Albie was born in 1924 in Boston to Scottish/Irish immigrant parents. That's where he grew up, graduating from Newton High School in 1941.

As soon as he could after World War II broke out, Albie left the University of Vermont to enlist in the U.S. Army Air Corps and as a B29 navigator was eventually stationed on Tinian (with the Enola Gay). He flew 19 combat missions, and at the war's end was on the first plane to land in Japan under its own power, then immediately found a POW from his own squadron who had been shot down.

Following the war, Albie hitchhiked to California, enrolled at USC on the G.I. Bill, and became a star on their baseball team. After graduation, he played in the minor leagues for the Giants' franchise, batting clean-up and cleaning up at third base, until a back injury sidelined his career.

All was not lost; he had already fallen in love with Barbara Vierheilig and his marriage to her more than took away the sting! For the next 17 years, Al and Barb lived the fabulous fifties lifestyle in a California ranch house with five kids. Al took the train into San Francisco to work, coached Little League, and played golf whenever he could.

Al spent his career in the food business, starting as a sales rep for several companies before going to work for Ore-Ida. This move brought another, from San Mateo to Boise when Ore-Ida moved its headquarter here. By then he was the national sales manager, but becoming interested in another area: the food brokerage business.

With Ore-Ida's blessing and their line of products, he started Johnston Sales Company in 1971. This venture challenged him and brought him great joy as the company grew to over 80 employees in Boise, Pocatello, and Salt Lake City, before he sold the business and retired in 1985.

Dad's sense of humor was famous in our family. He would tell a joke and before he could get to the punchline, he'd be laughing so hard that we'd laugh at him laughing. His accidentally funny remarks and observations often made us laugh; he'd look in amazement at us laughing, then burst out laughing himself. His humor also got him through the bumps and hurdles of life; he found a way to look at the best side.

Golf was a passion. Al played great courses across the country, as well as the old courses in Scotland. He had three holes-in-one, and when he was 73, hit another landmark: he "shot his age," a 73 at Hillcrest Country Club.

Papa loved his grandkids: he could be found at baseball games, ballet recitals, and many an elementary school Christmas program. He was willing to be part of the base in the pyramid when we all gathered for family reunions at Cape Cod, taught them all how to play gin rummy, and fostered a whole new generation of Bronco fans!

One of the places we think of him is right up in front of the stereo, listening to his many LP's, calling us over to listen, to get us to share his appreciation of the blues.

Everywhere Albie went, he enjoyed people: to us, that is the hallmark of his life. He would strike up a conversation with any stranger, find out all about the person and invariably discover that they had something in common. He delighted in his family and his friendships; he was a kind, loving, compassionate man.

To us, it seemed his life was golden, but he knew tragedy, too, as maybe one must to live such a good life, losing his beloved 17-year-old brother to a sudden illness, then his only son at 19 to an accident.

Albie is survived by his much beloved wife of 59 years, Barbara, his daughters and their spouses: Laurie and Mike Sciales, Carol Perkins, Ellen and Wayne Blasius, Julie and Andy Artis; his grandchildren: Kate McLaughlin and Maggie Sciales; Joe, Brad, and Hayley Perkins; Andrew, Caroline, Sarah, and Will Blasius; and Ben and Emily Artis.

He was preceded in death by his son Bill, his parents William and Dollena Johnston, his brother Bill Johnston, his sisters Evelyn Kennally and Lillian MacLeod, and his son-in-law John Perkins.

We are so grateful for the loving care Albie received from the nurses and aides at the VA. They were like family. Thank you all so very much.

Services will be held at 2:00 p.m., Thursday, January 13, 2011 at St. John's Cathedral, Boise.