Bill "Harold" Johnston was a man who took his faith seriously. He spent each day living that faith, and his quiet and steadfast actions speak loudly to all those he came in contact with. His story is one of a man who all observed, gloriously showed the unity of actions, words and beliefs.
Bill's service began on Friday morning at Chapel Hill Memorial Gardens where his family gathered to lay his physical body to rest. Pastor Greg Nichols reminded them that although Bill's spirit is no longer there, they have the promise that his body and spirit will someday come together again in a glorified immortal body.
The words of the old hymns so clearly speak Bill's beliefs and were a wonderful way to remind those he leaves behind of the promises of their faith. So appropriately, this service and the memorial service would include several of those songs: Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross, What a Day that Will Be, The King is Coming, O Love That Will Not Let Me Go to name just a few.
His family gathered around his casket to write a final thought on the casket. After a moment, they each took a flower from the red and white spray and then reverently watched as the burial continued.
The somberness of the morning gave way to stories, hugs, laughter and conversation as that evening, Rachel and the rest of Bill's family welcomed friends at Grace Immanuel Reformed Baptist Church, the place that Bill called his church home for over 30 years. Some of his familiar items from his home were placed around the room to aid in conversation: many of which were reminders of the faithful work he had done throughout his life, the faithfulness of God in his life, and his legacy of faith that will certainly continue to be shared.
Some wrote on the white boards either a phrase that describe Bill, or something they learned from him. A review of the board shows his deep wisdom (Think and pray before you speak), but also his quirky humor, always welcoming people into his home and reminding them the cost for entry (It's the same price to sit as to stand). Not to be forgotten was a display of a recent puzzle he had finished as well as one that guests could work on.
The challenge of the service on Saturday morning was how to limit the time of the memorial service as there was so much to say. Bill had touched so many lives! Pastor Paul Smalley spoke on Bill's favorite passage, Psalm 46. A variety of others then had the opportunity to share some of their prepared thoughts. Guests heard words like steadfast, faithful, steady, predictable, wise, leader, love and hero. Common phrases and ideas included Kingdom focused, committed to prayer, trust the Word of God. Almost everyone stood when asked to "stand if you had been touched by Bill and Rachel's hospitality". But another side not always seen behind this model of faith, was also very evident: his love for fun and laughter. Several stories were shared of his pranks and jokes. But everyone in attendance clearly heard the Word of God and could see that Bill pursued a life of devotion to the God he loved so dearly. His continued legacy is in the lives of the family and friends he so deeply impacted. To read more about Bill's life, or to share one of your own memories, visit his personal memory page.