Sgt. Maj. Robert J. "Bob" Johnston, USMC (Ret.), 103, longtime Ellensburg resident, passed away on Friday, April 15, 2022 at his home at Hearthstone Cottage. Viewing for family and friends will be from 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 28, 2022 at Johnston & Williams Funeral Home in Ellensburg. The funeral service will be held at 1:00 p.m. on Friday, April 29, 2022 also at the funeral home with burial and military honors to follow at the IOOF Cemetery.
Bob was born on September 9, 1918 in Monmouth, Oregon and was adopted at a young age by Everett & Irma (Allen) Johnston. The family moved to east Kittitas County (in the area that is now known as the Quilomene Wildlife Recreation Area) where Bob attended a one-room school named Dry Gulch, riding to school on horseback with his teacher. The family moved into Ellensburg in 1933 and Bob graduated from Ellensburg High School in 1937. While in high school, he served as sophomore class president, was in the orchestra, played football and basketball and also ran track.
In 1941, Bob enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and was assigned to the First Marine Division. He served in combat during WWII at the battles at Guadalcanal and Peleliu as part of the battlefield support ground crews specializing in arming Marine Corps aircraft. He was later stationed stateside for training surrounding the new Vought F4U Corsair fighter aircraft. In 1945, Bob’s active duty ended and he joined the USMC Reserves, serving through the Yakima Unit. He was called up again for duty during the Korean War and stationed in California, coordinating ammunition shipments. He continued to serve in the Marine Reserves until his retirement in 1974 with the rank of sergeant major.
Following his service in the Korean War, Bob worked for a large cattle operation in the Kittitas Valley before going to work as a technician with the U.S. Soil Conservation Service in Wenatchee. As part of that job, Bob returned to college (at the age of 49), earning his bachelor’s degree from Washington State University. He worked all over the state in different districts, retiring at age 65.
Bob married Madeline Wiley in 1947 and became a father two her two children - Jimmy and Rosemary. They shared 55 years of marriage before Madeline passed away in 2002. On September 27, 2014, Bob (age 94 at the time) married his high school sweetheart Harriet Gardinier Brain (age 96). Harriet passed in August 2017.
Bob was a 74 year member of Ellensburg Lodge No. 39 and will be remembered as the brother who contributed the most to Freemasonry in Ellensburg. He was raised a Master Mason on May 5, 1948. His service to his country as a Marine in WWII prevented him from joining earlier, but he always indicated he had wanted to. He served as Worshipful Master of the Lodge in 1965 and as Chaplain for more years than anyone can remember. Bob certainly served his lodge well and earned the Grand Master’s Achievement Award in 2006.
He was also very active in the York Rite of Freemasonry. Bob was Grand Illustrious Master of Cryptic Masons of Washington 1977. Bob was also Commander of Temple Commandery #5 in 1966 and served as Grand Commander in the State Washington in 1986. For the Royal Arch Chapter and Immaculate Tabernacle, Holy Royal Arch Knights Templar Priests, Bob was the Secretary or Recorder for over 50 years. He was active in the Scottish Rite and the Order of the Eastern Star as well and served as Worthy Patron in Grace Chapter, Ellensburg many times. He was also very involved as a Shriner, serving as an Illustrious Potentate in 1995.
Bob worked tirelessly to maintain the Temple Building. In fact the lodge eventually passed a resolution that he could no longer climb a ladder or go on the roof when he was 93 years old. This resolution was respected by Bob, but ultimately ignored when he saw work that needed to be done. Bob knew everything related to Freemasonry, from how the building worked, to the rituals, obligations and lectures for 20 or so degrees that he helped confer, to the main message of the craft which is to be a good mason and true. He will be sorely missed by his brethren.
Bob is survived by his grandson Geoff (Melody) Latham of Aurora, Oregon and granddaughter Gina Smith of Redmond, Oregon; great-grandchildren Cody Smith, Zachary Smith, Haley Wilson, Gerick Latham and Gerod Latham as well as three great-great-grandchildren - Bailee, Annabelle and Emerson.
It is hard to fully encapsulate the life of such an amazing man - husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather, friend and retired Marine. This obituary is only a snapshot of Bob’s story and readers are encouraged to do an internet search for “Bob Johnston Ellensburg” to find two articles from 2018, written by the late community journalist Mike Johnston (no relation), about Bob’s amazing life and history. Part One -- Click Here; Part Two -- Click Here
Johnston & Williams Funeral Home and Crematory of Ellensburg has been entrusted with funeral arrangements. Online condolences may be left at www.johnston-williams.com
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