I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. Be had a full life...he was improving and we were looking at assisted living facilities when he took a turn for the worse in rehab - a combination of being released from the hospital too early and being given the wrong drug at the rehab facility - not sure if this happened due to the doctor error or at the rehab but by the time we got him back to the ER it was too late and he died the next day...we are on the way home - about 10 hrs away now -- planning the service and all it entails and driving back out in 2 weeks' time -- now I know why the bereaved are so shell-shocked -- when do you get time to decompress and grieve?? Thanks to all for your thoughts and prayers..p.s. we learned the doctor wanted to leave town for 'march madness' and made the wrong judgment call -- and had no one on call in his practice! Amazing. Just amazing...this will run in both Santa Fe papers and the Baltimore Sun...
James Houston Eccleston Johnston, died age 90 on Friday, March 18, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Nick-named “Be” (family lore: as a child he couldn’t pronounce ‘me’ and would say, “Give it to Be”), Be was born into a historically prominent Maryland family at their summer home ‘Burnside,’ where his grandfather started a 500-acre dairy farm in the Green Spring Valley, in Stevenson, MD (formerly Eccleston, MD), outside of Baltimore. He was a member of the Society of Cincinnati, whose members are direct descendants of officers of the American Revolution.
Be’s formative years were spent on Burnside with five siblings, where adhering to the propriety and social mores of the upper echelon did not prevent him from youthful adventures and high-jinks, such as spending summers working at a family-owned mine panning for gold, or driving a car with friends cross-country.
When World War II broke out Be was at first unable to join up due to poor eyesight, so in 1942 he volunteered for the American Field Service, serving with the British 8th Army, and driving ambulances across the African desert. Though he seldom discussed the war except for humorous anecdotes, exploits of his valor are described in the book Ambulance in Africa, written in 1945 by Evan Thomas, who mentions Be by name. Following service with the British Army, Be was finally able to enlist in the U.S. Marines in 1943. He was assigned to the 5th Marine Division, which went to Iwo Jima. Fortunately, Be was left behind in the rear echelon in Hawaii. Be received an Honorable Discharge in 1945.
Be attended high school at Saint Andrews in Delaware (featured in the movie The Dead Poet’s Society), and Trinity College in CT before the war. After the war he attended Georgia Tech on the GI bill.
Be lived all over the country, ultimately preferring the west to life on the east coast. The majority of his career was spent with the Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Co., where he was sales rep/field agent for TX, AZ, and NM, receiving numerous awards before retiring in 1992 after 25 years.
Among Be’s many interests were horse racing, racing chariots, and driving his team of ‘minis’ in parades and to area nursing homes, to the enjoyment of the residents.
Be is survived by wife Jean Johnston, son J.H.E “Excy” Johnston (Amy), of AR, sister Caroline “Carrie” Gardiner, of AZ, and numerous stepchildren, nephews, nieces, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and many, many friends. He is preceded in death by first wife Rozenia Dunn Johnston and daughter Martha “Mattie” Johnston, and his second wife Flo Watkins, as well as his parents and four brothers.
An honorable man with an infectious sense of humor, Be saw only the good in everyone he met, and cultivated friendships of all ages. A life-long Episcopalian, both Be’s brother and Uncle were noted Episcopal priests.
Services will be held on April 9 at 11:00 a.m., St. Bede’s Episcopal Church, 1601 S. St. Francis Drive, Santa Fe, NM 87505. Telephone: 505 982 1133. A reception at the church will follow immediately afterwards.
Memorial contributions may be given to the following nonprofits: Wing Spur Wild Horses (www.wingspur.org); and the von Hippel Lindau Family Alliance (www.vhl.org).