Mary Florence Johnston, of Arbor Ridge in Rhinebeck, NY, died December 7, 2010 after a lengthy illness. She was 91 years old.
Born in Lafayette, Indiana on October 8, 1919, she was the daughter of the late Flora and Thomas Johnston, a newspaperman and publicity director for Purdue University.
After her education in the public schools of Lafayette, she attended DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana and received her bachelor's degree in music education. After a brief relocation in West Virginia, she auditioned for and was admitted to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where she studied under the renowned German-born American soprano, Elisabeth Schumann. Ms. Johnston graduated in the class of 1945.
Afterward, she relocated in New York City where she began to sing professionally. She auditioned for and was awarded a minor role in Bizet's "Carmen" in a national touring opera cast that included Beverly Sills. After completion of that tour she applied for and received her teaching credentials and began her 25-year career as a music educator in the New York City public school system. During that tenure, she also enlisted teachers' aides mothers of students in the schools where she taught and trained them as a singing group and presented them in concert on a number of occasions. She was deeply loved both by the students and the aides.
In 1966 she met her beloved Melva -- Dr. Melva J. Wade the dean of students at the New York City Community College. They recently celebrated their 44th anniversary together. Prior to their retirement, they purchased a weekend home in Accord. In 1979 they made the final move and became full-time residents in Ulster County.
They lent their talents, energy, and resources to many community activities. They served on the board of directors of the D&H Canal Historical Center and were honored later as volunteers of the year. Ms. Johnston was also an active volunteer with the Hudson Valley Philharmonic and served as 2nd president of the Friends of the Philharmonic. She was also a longtime volunteer with the Ulster Performing Arts Center as well as an active member of the Stone Ridge Democratic Committee.
She was honored, along with Dr. Wade, in March of 2009 by the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center of Kingston, when they were presented the first Lifetime Legacy Award in recognition of their long involvement in community activities.
In addition to her partner, Dr. Wade, she is survived by a brother, David, of Maryland, several nieces and nephews, and her extended family at the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center. Another brother, William, predeceased her. She was a great lover of animals and also leaves her two beloved cats, Pinky and Tunie.
Reposing at the Simpson - Gaus Funeral Home, 411 Albany Ave. on Monday, December 13 from 2:00 to 4:00 pm and 6:00 to 8:00 pm. A Funeral Service will be conducted at Christ the King Episcopal Church, Stone Ridge on Tuesday, December 14 at 12 pm. Cremation will be private and her remains will be buried in Fairview Cemetery in Stone Ridge.
Please click on "Photo Gallery" for pictures of Mary.
Memorial contributions may be made to Ulster Performing Arts Center, 601 Broadway, Kingston, NY 12401; LGBTQ Community Center, POB 3994, Kingston, NY 12402 or D & H Canal Historical Society, 23 Mohonk Rd., High Falls, NY 12440.
Directions to Christ the King Episcopal Church 3021 State Route 213 East * Stone Ridge, NY 12484 * 845-687-9414 From Kingston Thruway Exit 19 (from the North): Take the first right out of the roundabout onto 28 west. Shortly thereafter exit right onto 209 south. Go about 12 miles into Stone Ridge where you continue straight at the traffic light. At the next traffic light turn left. This is 213 east. The church will be 1/4 mile on the right.
From New Paltz Thruway Exit 18 (from the South):
At the light after the tollbooths, go left. Continue straight at the next three traffic lights. Turn right at the fourth light onto 32 north. After about 5 miles you'll cross a bridge over the Walkill River, and a few miles later you'll cross a bridge over the Rondout Creek as you're coming into Rosendale. Immediately after the bridge there is a traffic light. Turn left into Rosendale, and bear left onto Route 213 for about 6 miles. Go straight at the traffic light as you're leaving High Falls. The church will be on the left 1 mile from the light.