Lloyd Harold Johnston

Lloyd Harold Johnston “Harold” was born on May 6, 1924, in the city of Orange, Orange County, Calif. He died June 18, 2017, in Lancaster. Harold grew up in Southern California, attended grade school in Fullerton and graduated from Fullerton High School in 1942.

Harold was a lad gifted with a very pleasant disposition and a talent for playing the piano. This was soon recognized by his aunt, Helen Johnston, a classically trained musician and piano teacher. She recognized he had an “ear” for music and started lessons when he was four years old. He was a sought-after pianist at his church and schools from the age of 10 —playing hymns for Bible study the day before he was stricken with the seizure that led to his death at 93 yrs. He was a terrific accompanist because he could instantly transpose any song to a better key when needed and he adapted his playing to enhance performers’ interpretations of their songs.

War had been declared by the time Harold graduated from high school so after a brief employment with Douglas Aircraft, he entered the Army. He was trained as an aircraft mechanic and shipped to England in 1943. He remained in England repairing aircraft engines at the Burtonwood depot near Manchester until the war ended.

He was then transferred to Germany with the allied occupation force. While there he was able to pursue his real passion, music. In Germany he performed as an “Entertainment Specialist,” which in this case involved working with a team of soldiers operating a radio station for what today we would call Morale, Welfare and Recreation. While on assignment in Germany, Harold wrote letters home and part of one to his aunt was published in one of the local Orange County newspapers. Harold told her he was staff pianist for the “Pioneer Mustang Radio Station,” at Herzogenaurach, Germany. He went on to say he thought he was pretty lucky and having lots of fun — two sentiments which characterized Harold all of his life. He returned to America on the Queen Mary in 1946 and was discharged.

Harold married Irma Pratt from his home town after he returned from his stint in the Army. They were married on Jan. 17, 1947, in Fullerton and celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary this year.

Harold worked as a salesman for the Coca Cola Co. and for the wholesale food distributor, S. E. Rykoff. His career in the food industry during the ’60s and ’70s in Southern California meant he got to see the growth of the fast-food industry from its infancy to the giant it is today. He was involved in many of the startups of fast-food restaurants in key locations in Orange County.

When he retired in 1992, he and Irma moved to Ridgecrest, home of their daughter Lorraine Randolph and her family. In retirement Harold busied himself with his passion, music, forming a ladies’ singing group, “Sweet Assurance,” at his new church home, the Ridgecrest Church of the Nazarene. In addition to weekly rehearsals with this group, Harold played the piano at church and for weddings, funerals and many other special events. For several years he played for the Immanuel Christian School chapel services. He seldom, if ever, said “no” to a request to play and was in fact so alert for any need his church or community might have for a pianist, he often offered his services before they could be requested.

Harold was not only a virtuoso pianist but also a writer and and arranger of music. His hymn, “Heavenly Father King Eternal” was first published in 1961 and remains in the Nazarene Hymnal today. In addition to playing, conducting and writing, Harold also arranged music for voice and instrument — initially with pen and paper but later with the computer. Harold’s computing skills merit special recognition. Although introduced to the computer rather late in life — he was 64 when he saw an IBM 286 for the first time — he became one of the most computer-literate musicians of any generation within a few years. He took computer classes at Cerro Coso Community College well into his 80s and purchased his last Mac three years ago when he was 90.

In addition to classical training as a musician, Harold was classically trained as a gentleman. Seldom would you encounter a more courteous, polite, well mannered, deferential person. If he lacked any social skill, it was an ability to critique. He seemed to be genetically programmed to encourage, compliment and find the best in everyone he met. He listened attentively and kept a conversation or a relationship going by taking a genuine interest in his correspondents, celebrating their stories and interests by making sure they got the chance to tell their story.

Harold would have also been the first to point out that he was not genetically programed to be a loving, compassionate and courteous man. He would attribute any success he attained in living a life with these characteristics to his Christian faith. He made a deliberate decision to devote himself to his faith as a young man, and he was true to that decision. His hope was always to live in such a way, treat people in such a way and pursue his passion for music in such a way that God would be glorified.

When his pastor, Rev. Tim Smith of the Church of the Nazarene, announced Harold’s death to the congregation on June 18, he said Harold had gone to see his Heavenly Father on Father’s Day. Harold Johnston lived in such a way that when that reunion occurred his father would have been quick to assure him, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.”

Harold was preceded in death by his father Lloyd Alfred Johnston, his mother Mabel Bessie Tewes and his sister Nadine Eleanor Rawson. He is survived by his wife of 70 years, Irma; daughters Lorraine Randolph and Marilyn Best and son Steven Johnston and their families. He is also survived by nine grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

There will be a visitation for Harold at the H.K. Holland Memorial Chapel in Ridgecrest on Thursday, July 6, from 5 to 7 p.m. He will be buried in the Bakersfield National Cemetery, Arvin, on Friday, July 7, at 10:45 a.m. His memorial service will be at the Ridgecrest Church of the Nazarene on July 8 at 10 a.m. A memorial fund has been set up at the Nazarene Church in his name to help support the children’s playground renovation project there.

— Submitted by the family of Lloyd Harold Johnston

Story First Published: 2017-06-23