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Robert “Bob” W. Johnston

Robert “Bob” W. Johnston

January 29, 1948 - January 10, 2020     Age: 71

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).

20 Condolences

  • Ben Donatelli Posted January 12, 2020 12:27 pm

    Gayla,
    Please know that Vivian and I send our heartfelt condolences and prayers for Bob and you. Our times in Clearwater will not be the same.

  • Karen Rhorer Posted January 12, 2020 12:41 pm

    I love this “life story.” I can hear Bob speaking these words. It is beautiful and humorous and matter of fact!
    Chad and Brian, your parents are one of about three couples that have been a constant throughout our life in Frankfort. They know everyone of our children and have helped us and supported us so much over the years, when we needed their assistence with driving someone to school or being picked up from the airport with our newly adopted child or watching our younger girls when we had to be away for a little while or…I could go on and on. Reed enjoyed his friendship with Bob immensely. We will truly and sincerely miss your father for so many reasons.
    Gayla, our love, thoughts, and prayers will continue for months and months to come. One of my favorite memories of you and Bob is standing in our front yard watching Julia and Emma race Max. I hear the laughter now. A good hardy laugh! May you find peace in the coming days. We love you!

  • Sharon Hadley Posted January 12, 2020 4:15 pm

    Gayla, I am so sorry to hear this. Know that my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

  • Steve Dooley Posted January 12, 2020 6:28 pm

    Love the life story. Brought back numerous memories. Loved Bob and will miss my good friend.

  • Chuck Wolfe Posted January 12, 2020 10:41 pm

    Susan and I send our heartfelt sympathies and well wishes. You and Bob were regular subjects of our group prayer at Sunday School. We hoped for a better outcome. We now pray for you and the boys and grandkids, for some peace in the days, weeks, years to come.

  • Bill Schulte Posted January 13, 2020 12:12 am

    GAYLA- I am so heartbroken over Bob’s passing. We were friends and colleagues for over 25 years and his passing leaves a huge void. While intense and stressful we always looked forward to our times together teaching. We worked together, supported each other, laughed together, teased each other, annoyed each other, and most of all respected and loved each other. I hope you can take solace in knowing how many lives Bob touched. If our lives are to be measured by our work, by how we raised our family, and the good we did he had a remarkable and full life. I will miss Bob every day

  • Guthrie True Posted January 13, 2020 7:10 am

    Bob usually called me on my birthday. A very thoughtful person. Gayla and the boys, we are thinking of you.

  • Bobbye Brown Posted January 13, 2020 8:23 am

    Gayla prayers for you and the family.

  • Burton Webb Posted January 13, 2020 8:38 am

    Gayla,

    We are grieving with you this morning. I had the opportunity to engage in several conversations with Bob at our AIKCU meetings each year. Kay and I will be praying for peace and comfort for you and your family during this time of grief. We will also pray that the good memories will, in their time, overwhelm the grief and stand by your side as guardians while the waves roll by.

    Striving to serve,
    Burton Webb, President
    University of Pikeville

  • Claude Pressnell Posted January 13, 2020 10:37 am

    Gayla,

    My heart is broken for you and your family. It was always a joy to see you and Bob at various independent college and university functions. Bob always brought wise and measured deliberations to our work. He was man of encouragement to us all. We were always able to pick up on our last conversations even if it had been months since we were together. Bob will be greatly missed but never forgotten. Blessings of strength, peace, and sweet memories.

    Claude

    Dr. Claude Pressnell
    President
    Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities

  • Colleen Grim Posted January 13, 2020 12:53 pm

    Brian, Jess, & family – We are so sorry for your family’s loss. Thank you for sharing the beautiful words about Bob and his incredible life. We know his legacy will be carried on through you and his grandchildren
    Much love,
    Josh & Colleen Grim

  • Gregg Muravchick Posted January 13, 2020 3:35 pm

    Hugs thoughts and prayers to all. He was truly a great man! He will be surely missed.

  • Jackie & Mike Hatcher Posted January 14, 2020 11:23 am

    Gayla, Brian and Chad, Mike and I were so sorry to hear of Bob’s passing. We know this has been such a difficult time for you. We have been and will continue to pray for your family. Gayla, we have such fond memories of our neighbors from our first homes. Especially memorable was sharing the snowbound winter of 1978 in each other’s ’ homes and the long walks together in the snow, and loving your precious baby. Our friendship remained over the years through shared meals, joining together in church work, and watching our children grow into such remarkable young adults,and celebrating their marriages together. Such good times we will always cherish. Now what a joy it is to watch our grandchildren grow and I’m so thankful Bob got to play hide and seek and tickle monster with your grand babies. Our love to all of you.

  • Tracie Shapiro Posted January 15, 2020 4:02 pm

    I enjoyed getting to know Bob through his work with the AIKCU Human Resources Group. He will be greatly missed.

  • Dara and Bob Bass Posted January 18, 2020 6:03 pm

    Wonderful Memories – continuing to send prayers your way. We rejoice that Bob is at peace in heaven. Still miss seeing you.

  • Nancy Sherrow Posted January 19, 2020 8:51 am

    So sorry to hear. Learned a lot reading his life stories and also brought back great memories. He was a great interesting caring person

  • Patti Nolan Posted January 19, 2020 10:46 am

    Bob was such a friendly, helpful man! I also enjoyed talking to him and Gayla when they took walks around the neighborhood. He did a lot of good things with his life. He is missed.

  • Darlene Stivers Posted January 19, 2020 11:46 am

    Gayla, so sorry for your loss. Never forget how kind you and Bob were to have a wedding reception for Phil and I. Bob was a great boss, special person and good friend. Prayers

  • Tom and Debbie Griswold Posted January 19, 2020 12:32 pm

    So sorry to read about Bob. He, Greg Guess and I had a lot of fun working for Damon Harrison helping keep Kentucky folks from freezing to death in the dark during the first energy crisis of the 1970’s. Gayla, we pray that God brings you and your family peace in the days to come, just as we know that He holds Bob in His arms forevermore.

  • Robin Downing Posted January 20, 2020 4:21 pm

    Dearest Gayla, I am so sorry to learn about Bob’s passing. My heart breaks for you, the boys (and wives) and the grandchildren. I know how hard this is.
    I think about our friendship and your teaching me how to throw a partner in martial arts. You were the most admired person there! I’m really saddened that you have lost such a special partner.
    I’m here for you.

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