Edythe Bronwyn Hughes Johnston

Born September 30, 1908

Died February 28, 2009

Edythe's Favorite Song
Sung so many times to others
and now, how so true

Till We Meet Again

Smile the while you kiss me sad adieu
When the clouds roll by I'll come to you.
Then the skies will seem more blue,
Down in Lover's Lane, my dearie.

Wedding bells will ring so merrily
Ev'ry tear will be a memory.
So wait and pray each night for me
Till we meet again.

(And Mom always added at the end: "boom, boom, boom," then smiled

An Old Irish Blessing

Don Golliher

Death is nothing at all.
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Everything remains as it was.
The old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.
Call me by the old familiar name.
Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no sorrow in your tone.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effort
Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was.
There is unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just around the corner.
All is well. Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before.
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting, when we meet again.

God bless you Aunt Edythe.

From Donnie, Jennifer, Reed, Alex and all of the Golliher families

From Mike Vega, her trainer

I'm truly going to miss Edythe. As her personal trainer, she was such a joy to visit twice a week right up until her final days. She never complained and always had a smile on her face that could make the most difficult days pleasant again. Her soft demeanor and sense of humor was always one of the highlights of my week.

When you start a client at any age, it's anybody's guess how long they'll last. When you start a client at the age of 89, you have to assume that it's not going to be for too long. She always amazed me and anybody else who watched her exercise. She could do things with an elegant ease that a lot of people a lot younger than she would have difficulty with. She had a gentle determination about her that could overcome any storm that would stand in her path. She faced life daily with a smile and a song, even when it was difficult for her.

She taught me a lot over the years. Mostly about how to face life's most difficult challenges and how to fully appreciate every person you come in contact with. Everybody who knew her loved her for this. At Bella Vita she was known simply as Momma by everyone on the staff. They loved her so much, nobody could ever pass her without giving her a gentle kiss on her cheek. And perhaps that was her greatest gift. No matter how much you gave and did for her, she always had a way of reciprocating her appreciation, with just a simple smile, that would make you feel so wonderful about yourself. An amazing gift indeed.

I'm truly going to miss Edythe and I know that my remaining days are going to be better because of her...for she's smiling on all of us now.

Mike Vega

Remembrances of my Grandma Edythe

by Marc Beisler

 I had an idyllic childhood. One of the reasons was my Grandma Edythe. (She’s always been grandma to me, grandmother just doesn’t fit the loving relationship we shared. Too formal.)
Every year since I was four or five, my family would drive to Florida to visit grandma and grandpa at spring break. This was high adventure for me. I knew when we got there, my grandma would greet me with a big hug, make sure we got to do plenty of swimming and always we took a trip to the circle, St. Armand’s Circle for those of you who may not already know.
This was the highlight of my trip. Grandma insisted we each get to choose a present from the five and dime. Sometimes I would chose a blow up raft, sometimes a dead and preserved sea creature; a star fish or blow up fish. We also got candy! But the best thing I ever got was a water propelled rocket set. There were a couple of plastic rockets, one small and the other larger. There was a pump launcher and maybe fittings to fill the rockets with. You could fill the rocket with water, stand it on the pump launcher and pump air into the rocket. Then, once you had pumped that contraption up to the limits of your strength, a gentle pull on the trigger and, zoom, off shot the rocket.
Some thought this a silly activity or risky as there were plenty of places for the rocket to land that made retrieval problematic. But I thought it was great and so did Grandma. She said it was my business if I wanted to lose my rocket. I am sure I did eventually but I didn’t care. It was worth it to see that rocket shoot and feel that water splash back at me. Besides, the sea creatures always smelled  and the raft always popped so what was wrong with a rocket? Florida was the best spring break place ever and grandma was the reason why.
 Love, Marc

From Jeanne Harris

I used to stay with Mrs. Johnston from time to time. I knew she liked to fix her breakfast. This was the hardest thing for me to do and stay in the bedroom and let her do it.  Since there was no cooking on the stove to worry about, she did fine and I let her do this. It let her have some independence.  I would fix her other meals although she always asked if she could help.  

I always marveled that she would take 7 pills first thing in the morning all at once with only a small drink of water. Then everyday she would eat half a grapefruit and one shredded wheat, then another 8 pills during the day and evening.  I always tried to get her to drink more water but no she loved her diet coke. I guess the grapefruit and coke caution is not true with pills, because at 100 she still did it.

There were lots of things we did together. I loved to put the picture puzzles together with her. We did them over and over. And she would enjoy them every time as if they were new. In the beginning I used to get her 5 yards of netting to make her scrubbies. She would do them so fast I would have to get her 15 yards. Then to help her more I started cutting them in the 2 inch strips. During that time she taught me how to crochet the scrubbies myself, but it took me 2 years to learn, I guess because she was left handed. The first ones I made would fit on my thumb.

When Mrs. Johnston and I would go places we would sing. She loved to sing the old songs. “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” seemed to be her favorite. She loved to go to the main street bar and get a sandwich. She said that she and her husband went there when they first came to Sarasota. Every time we came back over the big bridge and you could see her condo she would put her hand up and say, “See how big my house is?”  Measuring about an inch.  Then she would laugh real big.

Later when she was living at Bella Vita, I convinced her to give up her high heeled shoes. She had a hard time letting go of them, but once she felt the comfort, she liked the new walking shoes.  

Mrs. Johnston was a great lady in all ways. She didn't have a bad bone in her. I always respected her always. If I could be only half as good as she was. She was such a good person. She would give you the shirt off her back if you needed it. 

I really miss her. I had a great time with her every time — even when I heard her stories over and over, she made it easy to listen to her. 

As I said to my mother last year when she died, "I'll see you in heaven." I'm saying the same to Mrs. Johnston. 

LOVE YA,  Jeanne Harris

For My Great-grandmother
written by Erika Waldsmith

Thank you for the gift of love,
Now you're sharing it up above.
You had many things to say.
All in a caring way.
You always saw good in everyone,
No matter what they've done.
You were always the one we could all lean on,
Even though it must have felt like a ton.
You were always the strength of the family.
Now we must let you rest calmly.
As we say goodbye,
As tears roll down our eyes.
I know your place in heaven has a good view.
Because you're telling God,
I need to keep an eye on a few.
I know you will always be in our hearts and minds.
So Great Grandma,
I must go, but I'll never forget you're one of a kind. 


From Diane Jenkins:

This world is a little dimmer now, a little less.  Grandma has been here a century and now she is gone.  No matter where I was or what I was doing, I knew there was Grandma.  I know she is at peace now.  She is with her husband and daughter and all those who have gone on.  So heaven has the glimmer she took with her.  

I was just thinking.  She was alive for 100 years.  That is amazing!  All the things she saw and lived through.  Two World Wars, the great depression...  She saw four children grow up and have children of their own and those children have children and even some of those children have children.  She had great-great grandchildren.  

When she was born, the Wright brothers had just flown at Kitty Hawk less than a decade earlier.  She lived to not only see a man on the moon but unmanned flight to Mars.  In her lifetime we went from chalk and slate in the classroom to every child having a computer.  She had a crank phone on the wall to now everyone carrying a cell phone in their pockets.  She saw so much, been through so much, yet she was always true.  

She was a world traveler, yet she never drove a car.  She had been to Egypt and saw the pyramids.  She went to Taiwan and Japan.  I think that is something we forget.  She and Grandpa went all over the world.  

She loved her family.  I said this before, one of my treasured memories of her is when she came to New Jersey when my dad, her son-in-law was sick.  She took care of us so her daughter could be with her dying husband.  She taught us card games and how to cross stitch. That was special, she arose to the occasion and did what she had to do.  How can I say thank you for that?

I have lived across the country from my grandmother for over 6 years now.  We knew that when we moved that this would happen.  We would loose loved ones without being there to say goodbye.  My husband lost his father and we have lost a cousin and an aunt.  Now Edythe has gone on.  This is something we have accepted.  I am sure Grandma would not begrudge us.  We are happy here.  We have a good life.  I think that is what Grandma would have thought as important.  Besides there is a little piece of Edythe here with me and my family.  We are all blessed to have had her in our lives.  So be at peace Grandma, you are loved.  You left quite a legacy behind you.  

When we remember Edythe Johnston, there will always be a smile.

From Karen Johnston:

Whenever Mother had any kind of trouble, she would go into her room with her books and come out a different person.  After her readings, she would stroke my hair and speak lovingly to me.   When I was afraid to go to the dentist, she always told me I was God’s child and nothing could hurt me.  I used to recite it in the dentist’s chair and it worked.  When making the beds together when all the other children were at school, she would sing, “Shepherd show me how to go, ‘ore the hillside steep”.  It was clear that she needed help from a higher level to live her life better.  This message passed on to me along with the book reading and my own path has benefitted greatly from her faith and I have my own strong faith partly because of her.

From Linda Swengel

How lucky I was to have my Aunt Edythe in my life. She was always so happy and optimistic and thought everything I did was "just wonderful".  Even in her last years, when she didn't know who I was, she would tell me that my name was "so pretty" and she was "so proud of me".   I'll bet my mother, Tootie, would have looked just like her had she lived past 71.  When I held Aunt Edythe's hand I could close my eyes and imagine I was holding my mother's hand - they looked exactly the same. I will miss you Aunt Edythe.

Linda Swengel and Nancy Anderson
daughters of Edythe's sister Marilyn

From Jennifer Faile

My fondest memories of Edythe are when I first started working for Ken and Shannon. At the time Edythe needed someone to pick her up so she could run errands. I used to go there two mornings a week before I went to Ken and Shannons house. I looked forward to those days because she would talk to me about her childhood, growing up, getting married, moving and so on... She even showed me the house on Long Boat Key that she and Ken senior moved into when they moved to Florida from Chicago.

Those were special days for me not only because I was a newlywed, but because I was pregnant with my son Kameron as well.

She gave me sound marital advice and shared with me her innate wisdom — having herself raised a family of four.

I will always remember Edythe very fondly and am thankful that she touched my life, as she was a one of a kind “lady” and was very kind and generous to everyone she met.

Rest In Peace Edythe.

Things I Remember
by Ruth Johnston

The way your parents spelled your name. I remember sending Christmas cards to you and Uncle Ken having spelled your name Edith. Then one day I noticed that your name on your card was spelled Edythe. I was so very embarrassed that I had spelled your name wrong for so long .... and you never corrected me. I'm sure Uncle Ken would have if I'd done that to his name ...ha

The time I spent with you and Uncle Ken in California with Uncle Howard and Aunt Helen - while Uncle Ken and Uncle Howard were playing a mucho game of Gin, you and Aunt Helen patiently taught me how to play Gin. You would sit and coach me while Aunt Helen would let me win. You were my favorite Aunts as you both were married with strong men who you ruled behind the scenes ....great role models for me.

The time you, Uncle Ken and I drove from San Francisco to LA and stopped at Hearst Castle - Uncle Ken was so mad when he hit his head getting back into the car and you calmed him down which you must have done so many times. You clearly were always the calm behind his storm ....

Finally, I enjoy so much your wonderful warm smile and little giggle. It always makes me relaxed and happy to be around you. Thank you for being you....

Lots of Love, Your niece, Ruth Ann

From Lori Dunford, Shannon's niece

The first time I met Edythe was Thanksgiving in 1975.  I was a freshman at the University of Tampa and was not able to afford to go home (Wisconsin) for the holiday.  Edythe and Ken invited me to their place in Sarasota, along with Shannon & Ken and the rest of the family.  I remember driving a friend's car on that "long" trip from Tampa to Sarasota, wondering what the Johnston family gathering would be like.  Edythe was so hospitable and friendly.  She made me feel as if I were part of the family and extended an open invitation to visit at any time.  I got to know both Edythe and Ken while I was in Tampa and looked forward to seeing them while visiting Shannon and Ken's throughout the years.  Edythe was always happy, smiling and simply enjoyed being around family.  I know she will be missed by all of us.

From Nancy Stearns

I have so many fond memories of Edythe that it is hard to pin point just one.

My all time favorite is the fishing story about Steven Mitchell.  He had just caught a very small fish off their dock on Longboat Key and he asked Grandma to cook it for him.  She went into the house pulled a fish stick from the freezer,cooked it up and Steven was never the wiser.  What ingenuity,  but that is what Grandmothers are all about.

Another fun story....Chip had just returned from a trip to Florida and Ken Sr. and Edythe had just moved into their condo on Ringling.  Chip asked me to guess where Grandpa stored his "booze" in their new apartment....having no idea I asked where?  In the bathroom over the tub was his answer and then he laughed as though it was the funniest place anyone would store liquor.  That is what a ten year old finds humorous.

She will remain my "other Mother" as she always treated me as a daughter.

From Shannon

So many of my early memories of Edythe were food related. We attended many holiday gatherings in her home. As small as the apartment was, she would somehow manage to get us all at tables, to share wonderful meals. Two of my favorite recipes were her typical Christmas gifts: a cheese-nut roll, with chili powder on the outside, and her peanut butter fudge. I still make her wonderful veal loaf as well. When we first moved to Florida, she would always have on her kitchen countertop a big jar of “boozy fruit” (fermented fruit), that she would serve over ice cream. That seemed to be a Florida specialty. 

Many times Ken Sr., Edythe, Ken and I would play bridge or gin or hearts after sharing a meal at their home. Everyone except Edythe would enjoy a cocktail or two, getting a little more animated and silly as the evening wore on. I don’t know how she did it, but she would do the same. Her mood matched ours as the evening progressed — without the assistance of alcohol.

As they both aged, the holidays seemed to navigate to our home, where she would play the perfect role of matriarch. When we celebrated her 90th birthday, I thought perhaps there were not many years to come, so it had to be a big party. (If you weren’t there you can still see the pictures on this website.) In any case there were 10 more parties to come, each one seeming to creep up on what could be the end. And still there were more.

My admiration for Edythe never ceased. I don’t think there has been anyone I’ve every known who never criticized, never complained, and always was appreciative and grateful for anything anyone did for her.  That’s why the people at her assisted living home in Venice loved her so much (she moved there in July 1996). They all called her “Mom.”

She taught me so much. Because of her generosity I learned to needlepoint at her side, and was inspired by her beautiful work to learn how to quilt. Practically every family member received one of her quilts, until the time she had to give it up. We all had her scrubbies and kitchen wash cloths. (Fortunately she passed on the scrubbie skill to Jeanne Harris, who still makes them.)

It has been a privilege to have known and loved her. I hope she knew how much she was loved by all her friends and family.

Aunt Edythe and I had many, many happy times together. I shall miss her. Uncle Pleto

Roland Johnston, Edythe's brother-in-law

From Peter and Chris Mitchell

Peter says: My earliest memories of Grandma were when the Mitchell family traveled to Sarasota back when we were kids.  We were quite a handful for both Grandma AND Grandpa.  I remember being given a cane pole and encouraged to fish in the canal.  Thinking the pole  was like a rod and reel, I reared back and set a lure into their brand new porch screen.  I also remember Grandma wasn't too happy when one of the Mitchell kids wrote on a white Naugahyde bar stool with a ballpoint pen.

Grandma and Grandpa came up to visit us in New Jersey, and I remember doing something to anger Grandma.  She was EXTREMELY fast and could get very angry.  She was downright fearful.

But there was also a warm and loving side to Grandma.  I'll never forget how she cried when we honored her on her 99th birthday.  I was a master of ceremonies who read cards to Grandma, and she was so moved by the sentiments in those cards and letters. It will remain one of my fondest memories of her.  She was a humble, grateful woman of the highest character.

    Love, Peter


Chris says: I will never forget the warm welcome I received from Grandma (as she told me I could call her) when I married into the family via Peter. I was so drawn to her strong, silent grace and her warm smile that lit up her whole face, making her eyes twinkle.  As she was always sure to ask "How are you doing dear?"
I will always treasure what a great hostess she was and how she would always want us to leave their home with something she was making at the time. I was so grateful to have our children, Jessica and Thomas, be recipients of her quilt-making talents. Even when her quilt making days were coming to an end she quilted each of them crib blankets when they were born. However, I sincerely continue to regret the day she informed us she would no longer be making all those homemade "scrubbies!" Sometimes she would fill a grocery bag with them, telling me I should pass them on. My mother and sister's still look under my sink to see if I have anymore to share.
Grandma will be sorely missed, but all I have to do is look around to her family and see bits of her that have rubbed off onto all of us in some tender way, shape or form and be reminded of her.

From Lisa and Chip Johnston

Lisa says: I think I fell in love with Edythe the first time I met her.  Chip and I weren’t engaged, but I had moved to Florida, and he took me to visit his grandparents.  At some point, I asked a question or made a comment, and referred to Edythe as Mrs. Johnston.  And she set me straight, in the kindest, most wonderful way.  She told me to call her Grandma, just like the rest of the kids.  That was such a magical moment for me, because at that point in my life, I had already lost all of my grandparents, and Edythe had invited me into her family in such a simple way.  I told her how much it meant to me, as my own Grandmother had passed away only a few years before.  She said yes, Grandmothers had a habit of doing things like that!  That was the fall of 1994, and I’m so glad she put her habit off so many years.  I’m pleased to have known Edythe, and I’m honored to have been her Granddaughter.  Lisa

Chip says: I remember visiting in Florida. I really like their home. She was always there if I needed comfort and love. I remember after proposed to Lisa and introduced her as my finance the same weekend how proud she was that they were the first in the family to know. Grandma always the listened the best and never made judgements of her grandchildren. I was most thankful she met my children and my wife, that she realized at some level that the family she considered so important would continue after she was gone.

I miss my Grandmother but I am a better person because of her and my entire family.


From Bruce Beisler

Although I only knew her from age 50 to 100, I have many fond memories of my Grandma Edythe.
I remember...
watching JFK's funeral with Grandma Edythe in her kitchen on Woodbine
seeing color TV for the first time in her living room on Woodbine
many fun times at the Block Parties at her home on Woodbine
making ice cream on the 4th of July in her back yard on Woodbine
watching fireworks from her back yard on Woodbine
how proud she was to introduce me to her friends
going downtown Chicago with Grandma Edythe on a great adventure
driving with her to visit her friend in a Chicago area hospital
Grandma Edythe picking me up from Cub Scouts in a Taxi
Grandma Edythe telling me when to go to the end of the block to meet Powpow walking home from the train station
Grandma Edythe cooking wonderful breakfasts on Wedge Lane
going to the beach with Grandma Edythe
driving with Grandma Edythe from Wedge Lane to go shopping in St. Armands
walking down John Ringling Blvd with Grandma Edythe to do grocery shopping in St. Armands
Grandma Edythe showing great patience when she would take us kids to the condo swimming pool on Ringling Blvd
Grandma Edythe making wonder knitting and crochet crafts for everyone
Grandma Edythe playing cards with us at the dining room table
Grandma Edythe taking us to spring training baseball and the Sailor Circus
Grandma Edythe making wonderful meals in the Condo on Ringling Blvd
sharing fun times with Grandma Edythe at the Apple Festival
Grandma Edythe coming to our home in Palm City when Amanda Cynthia was born
Grandma Edythe as the matron of honor at many holiday feasts
Grandma Edythe at all her celebrated birthday parties sharing love and joy with the whole family
But most of all, I remember her smile.

Bruce Beisler

From Ken Johnston Jr.

I’ve been deeply moved by the memories shared above. I’ve sorted through my own 75 years of memories of my mother and the ones I loved best involved Mom’s laugh.

She loved to laugh. I loved making her laugh. She laughed easily and often.

In her final years, dementia took much away from her, but not her laugh. Shannon, Pleto , and I would join mom for dinner, and tell stories to make mom laugh. She always did.

Throughout my adult life, Mom laughed easily at me. I even began to believe I was funny. Mom had that effect on lots of people. She didn’t like to draw attention to herself. She would, instead, draw out other people’s stories, and appreciate them. People felt better about themselves after they’d been around mom. I think that was her secret. I think that’s why so many people loved her.

She could be serious and wise as well. When we kids were growing up, religion was an issue in our family. Dad had been burned out on religion being raised by an itinerant fundamentalist preacher, so he stayed home on Sundays. Mom made sure we kids always went to Sunday school or church and went on Wednesday nights to hear others bear witness.

When I was 13, my teen aged friends made fun of me for being a “Christian Scientist.”
I talked to mom and told her I didn’t want to be a Christian Scientist any more. “Well”, she said, calmly, “What are you going to be? You have to be something.”

So, I went to the library to study comparative religions. With all of the insight of a 13 year old, I chose Buddhism. She took my choice seriously and said, “Let’s look in the phone book and find the nearest Buddhist temple.” There were no Buddhist temples in Evanston. She looked in the Chicago phone book and finally found one on the South Side of Chicago. “How bad do you want to be a Buddhist?” she asked. “I don’t think Dad would be willing to drive you that far and wait for you. And, I don’t think you’d be safe taking busses, elevated trains and streetcars each way for two hours.”

“Maybe you could choose something else.” she said.

Only years later did I appreciate how patient she had been with me. She never laughed at how impractical my choice had been. Instead, she validated me and acknowledged my right to choose.

To me, this story tells a lot about my mother. I revel in the confidence she had in me and conferred to me. She seemed to believe I could be anything I wanted to be in life. She helped me believe it as well.

Thanks, Mom, for all your gifts and your deep, deep love.


To Edythe: Till We Meet Again

The "Descendants" page from Edythe's life story has been updated with current information. Some other dates for "Ancestors" were gleaned from books found in Edythe's belongings. Download the PDFs if you wish.