Sept. 24, 1939 – Dec. 24, 2019
Ronald Johnston shined when he found ways to serve others.
Whether it was as the town supervisor of Porter, mowing grass at his church or plowing snow to clear a neighbor’s driveway, Mr. Johnston was content.
The lessons in service for him started at an early age. He was raised in the family business, a Ransomville restaurant, known as “Johnston’s Since Prohibition.”
In later years when he could no longer drive a car, Mr. Johnston remained a fixture in Ransomville. He would drive about on his tractor lawnmower and wave to friends before stopping in at the restaurant, which had been passed on to a fourth generation of Johnstons.
On Tuesday, just minutes before midnight and the start of Christmas, Ronald C. “RJ” Johnston, 80, died at Niagara Hospice, following a short illness. And even then, he had been of service, hanging on long enough for out-of-town loved ones to arrive so that they could say their goodbyes.
“My father could tell you the history of Ransomville and there aren’t many people left who know it in such detail. He could point out homesteads that dated back to its beginnings and go through the families and who was related to who,” Dale Johnston said.
Mr. Johnston’s strong sense of community, a well-known family name and his military service as a Korean War veteran provided a strong base for his career in local politics.
But his life went well beyond public service. Married to the former Margaret Murr for 56 years, the couple raised four children and were grandparents to 12.
“My grandfather started teaching me how to drive when I was eight years old,” said Jarret Johnston, one of those 12. “I remember when we’d go up to the church, he’d let me drive his pickup truck.”
As an added treat, Jarret Johnston said his grandfather let him help mow the grass at St. Peter Lutheran Church in Cambria.
“I really enjoyed doing that with Gramps. He made it so it wasn’t a chore,” the grandson said.
As a volunteer firefighter of 55 years at Ransomville Volunteer Fire Department, Mr. Johnston also encouraged young people to serve in the organization by establishing the Ransomville Lantern Boys.
Teenagers 16 and 17 years old would assist firefighters and receive training from Mr. Johnston and other instructors to prepare them to become firefighters when they turned 18.
At the fire department, Mr. Johnston served in virtually every rank, from lieutenant to chief.
He was elected Porter town supervisor in 1977 and re-elected numerous times until 1995, when he was appointed administrative director of the Niagara County Water District. He held that full-time post until 2005 when he retired.
He was also honored as the “Town of Porter Republican of the Year” for his decades of public service. And though busy, Mr. Johnston made time for his hobbies, which included model trains and fishing.
Besides his wife, son Dale and grandchildren, he is survived by daughters Janet Meyer and Hannah Bell, and his oldest son, Roger.
A funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Monday in St. Peter Lutheran Church North Ridge, 4169 Church Road, Cambria.