Alan Robert Johnston, 80, of Morehead City, formerly of Asbury Park, N.J., passed away Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019, at Carteret Health Care in Morehead City.
A celebration of Al, a teacher of 55 years, a.k.a. Mr. Wizard and Master Gardener, is from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday at his home, with stories and a toast in his honor at 3 p.m.
Al was born Sept. 27, 1938, in Elizabeth, N.J., to the late Ethel Leslie Primmer and Robert William Johnston.
Al felt lucky to be born into the time he was and to be in his teens during the 50s era. He graduated from Trenton State College with his teaching degree. Sputnik launched the Russian-American space race that triggered an intense effort by the U.S. toward science education. Al took advantage of many opportunities and was fortunate to be able to attend classes at Florida State University and the University of South Dakota and complete his master’s degree at Michigan State University. He relished an opportunity to teach school in Puerto Rico for two years. Then he returned to New Jersey with his wife Marilyn (Marilyn Ruth Fritz Johnston) and young son Scott, where he taught in public schools – grades from high school to elementary school. His family grew to include his daughter, Kelly. He coached high school soccer for boys and girls. He developed a science program for elementary education students, winning awards and eventually became a science curriculum supervisor.
After retirement, he moved to Pine Knoll Shores with then-wife Sharon (Sharon Anita Burke Johnston). Soon bored with ordinary retirement activities, he offered his skills to Morehead Elementary School, where he served for 16 years teaching science in labs to the town’s young students. The principal recognized his professional skills and experience as an elementary science supervisor and curriculum developer and allowed Al to convert a storage building into a science lab. This they equipped with microscopes, balances and other little-used equipment to develop hands-on experiments for the students. All 300 of his fourth- and fifth-grade students were given the experience of performing experiments each week, bringing classroom lessons their teachers taught to life with their own hands. His hope was that the more than 2,500 students who passed through his science labs had positive experiences and perhaps been given a spark to be inspired to go into a science occupation or at least to stay curious about science in the world around them.
He had a lifelong interest in gardening and recently completed training with the local Master Gardener program, especially enjoying new skills in plant propagation. He was also a great cook and lover of wine.
He will be missed by many and had touched the lives thousands of young minds over the course of his career inside and outside the classroom.
He is survived by his wife, Georgia Minnich (kayak partner and weeder extraordinaire); brother, Glenn Morgan and wife Peggy; son, Scott Johnston and wife Maureen; grandchildren, Fintan and Teagan; daughter, Kelly and husband Shawn; and grandsons, Ryan and wife Anna, Shane and Connor. In addition, by love, not blood, he is survived by Chris Minnich and wife Laura; grandson, Owen; Jack Minnich and wife Bailey; and granddaughters, Kathryn and Evie. All his beloved grandchildren knew him as PopPop.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Ethel Leslie Primmer and Robert William Johnston.
In lieu of flowers, if you wish to make a donation in his name, consider giving to the N.C. Aquarium Society for Crystal Skipper Butterfly Research and Habitat Restoration project. This combines many of his loves – scientific research, being outdoors by the beach, attracting butterflies (and birds) and plant propagation. Make donations to N.C. Aquarium Society, Al Johnston fund for Crystal Skipper Project, 3125 Poplarwood Court, Raleigh, NC 27604.
Arrangements are by Brooks Funeral Home & Crematory Inc. of Morehead City. Access online obituary and internet condolences at www.brooksfuneralhomeandcrematory.com.