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Kathleen's Story

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NORTH ANDOVER: Kathleen Smith Johnston passed away peacefully on March 7, at age 102. She was born in Grays, South Carolina, in 1913, to Manning George Smith and Matilda Smith Smith. She was the third of six children with three sisters and two brothers. She was predeceased by her husband of over 60 years, Hooks Kelley Johnston Sr. of Luray, South Carolina. She was the beloved Grandma and Nana to three grandchildren, Hooks K. Johnston III of McLean, Virginia, Amy Johnston Desel of Fairfield, Conn., and Laura Johnston Simpson MD of Marblehead, and to her nine great-grandchildren. Kathleen was raised in Lena, S.C. where she described growing up as a “happy child surrounded by a loving family.” She was proud to have maintained a trace of her southern accent. Her father, MG Smith, owned the local general store, a sawmill, fertilizer business and grew watermelons. As a young woman she worked at the general store and acted as postmistress in the small post office. She married Hooks Kelley Johnston in 1936 and had one child, Hooks Kelley Johnston Jr. Her husband called her "Sugar" which made her smile.

During the war they moved to Hartford, Conn., where her husband was employed as an engineer at Pratt and Whitney Aircraft. She dedicated her own career to Christian education. She was the director of religious education at Broadview Community Congregational Church in Hartford. She broadened her own education with additional studies at the Hartford Seminary, ran the Faith Commission for the state UCC Conference and hosted a television show on WTIC “Your Child’s Faith.” She then became director of the youth programs at Center Congregation Church in Manchester, Conn. where she grew the program to include over a thousand young people. Following that she assumed a similar position at Immanuel Congregational Church in Hartford. She enjoyed travel to Israel and the Holy Land and lead others on similar trips. Upon her husband’s retirement, they moved to Red Bluff Island near Beaufort, S.C. She became active at Saint Helena’s Episcopal Church in Beaufort and mentored members of the staff there. During the summers on the island, their three grandchildren took turns visiting for weeks at a time and all have wonderful and lasting memories of those vacations.

After the death of her husband, Kathleen moved to North Andover to be near Hooks and Susan Johnston who have been enriched by her presence in their lives. She became an active member of South Congregational Church of Andover and while at Edgewood Retirement Community she conducted Bible study classes that spanned years and are still remembered by many there.

Always gracious she had a wonderful sense of humor and gratitude for her “good life” was often on her lips. Unfailingly loving and kind, she enjoyed sharing memories of her rural childhood in South Carolina. She will be remembered for her optimism and constant gratitude. She enriched the lives of so many over 102 years. When she looked at a bare tree, she only saw the promise of spring.

A memorial service will be at a later date and arrangements are under the care of the Conte Funeral Home of Andover. For online condolences please visit www.contefuneralhomes.com.
Published on  March 17, 2016
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