Robert (Bob) W. Johnston died January 10, 2020, at his home on Amelia Island, Florida, peacefully succumbing to a brave battle to a glioblastoma. He was 71. Born on January 29, 1948 in Benton, Kentucky, Bob was the son of the late John Bedford Johnston and Hattie Brooks (Anderson) Johnston, and brother to Carol June (Johnston) Harmon, all of Benton. Bob is survived by his loving wife of over 48 years, Gayla June (Harrison) Johnston, his sons, Brian Patrick Johnston (Jess), of Washington D.C., and Chad Nicholas Johnston (Frances Clark) of Columbia, SC, grandchildren Beatrice Caroline Johnston (5), Brooks William Johnston (5), Frances Claiborne Johnston (2), and Logan Robert Johnston (7 months), his sister Carol, of Paducah, Kentucky, and niece, Julie Harmon, of Cape Coral, Florida.
Bob was a graduate of Marshall County High School and Murray State University, with a B.S. degree in Biology (1970), where he was a member of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, and, in his sophomore year, had the fortuitous chance of meeting Gayla while on a double date with her friend, but who he successfully wooed despite riding a motorcycle and playing a trombone in the marching band.
Bob never utilized his degree in biology, beyond science experiments and projects with Brian and Chad over the years, but did fancy himself an amateur electrician and had a tendency bordering on obsession with tinkering and home repairs that never ceased to gain an additional 3-5 years of service out of broken and often obsolete electronics. Instead, Bob pursued a life of public service in the form of nearly 50 years of state government service and policymaking in Kentucky, first with the Highway Department, then the Kentucky Department of Energy, and later becoming the first and longtime Director of the Consumer Services Division of the Kentucky Public Services Commission. In his spare time, Bob was a Deacon at Immanuel Baptist Church, President of the Rotary Club of Frankfort, was one of the principal forces behind and founding Board members on the Sower Soccer Field Complex, and enjoyed serving as a spotter in the press box for Franklin County football games.
After retiring in 2001, Bob embarked on a second career as a public utilities consultant and Chief Operating Officer of the Association of Independent Kentucky Colleges and Universities (AIKCU) until his retirement in mid-2019, where Bob, in addition to running the operations and business services for AIKCU, started and oversaw a number of collaborative initiatives for the member-colleges, including the AIKCU Benefit Alliance, a self-funded health insurance program that delivered substantial savings to members’ health insurance costs.
Outside of work, Bob was an avid motorsports and golf fan, but was, above all else, a University of Kentucky sports fan, through triumph (basketball) and heartache (football), including having been a Kentucky basketball season ticket holder, in the same upper level bleacher row and seats, since the opening of Rupp Arena, not uncoincidentally a National Championship year for which Bob and Brian (born just before the season began) naturally took credit. Bob’s other passion was as an enthusiastic and adventurous traveler (to all 48 continental states and Alaska, and 5 of the 7 continents, encompassing 27 countries) with Gayla, family and friends. The many National Parks in the West were his favorite and the subject of frequent return trips. Above all, Bob was a devoted husband, father, and grandfather. Whether it was playing pitch and catch, coaching soccer teams, traveling to games and matches across the Southeast, or playing hide and seek or tickle-monster with his grandchildren, Bob lived life for his family and they benefited immeasurably from his devotion.
If the old saying is true that all dogs go to heaven, Bob is undoubtedly reunited with his best bud Max (a Jack Russell terrier), engaging in hilarious shenanigans playing fetch and chasing after Bob’s laser pointer.
The family would like to thank Bob’s Doctors and caregivers with the Baptist Hospital and MD Anderson Cancer Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida.
No immediate services are planned.
The family asks that, in lieu of flowers, memorials be made to the Kentucky United Methodist Children’s Home, Wolfson Children’s Hospital at Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville, the St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, or the Central Kentucky Riding for Hope (at the Kentucky Horse Park).