Skip to content

December 16, 1919 – April 13, 2023

Johnston, The Reverend Robert Owen, died in Richmond, VA on April 13, 2023, at age 103. He was born on December 16, 1919, in Fayette County, PA and in 1952 married fellow Fayette County native Josephine “Jo” Lauretta Rich (1924-2013). He attended Indiana University in Pennsylvania and received an M.S. in Political Science from the University of Chicago, an M.S. from the Command and General Staff College (U.S. War College), and an M.Div. from the Virginia Theological Seminary. A veteran of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, he retired from the U.S. Air Force as a Lt. Colonel in 1968. He was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1971 and was the rector of Bath Parish in Dinwiddie County, Virginia (1970-1975; 1979-1985); director of Jackson-Feild Home in Greensville County, Virginia (1975-1979); and, until the mid-2000s, traveled with Jo to serve as an interim priest in parishes in the Caribbean, Latin America, and South America and also worked as a volunteer with Witness for Peace in Guatemala. In the last 10 years of his life, he took great delight in being a “jewel” of St. Stephen’s, Petersburg and, in the years just before the COVID pandemic, working with members of Good Shepherd, McKenney to support Syrian and Afghan refugees in Richmond. In addition to his wife of 61 years, he was preceded in death by his parents, Walter Owen Johnston and Edna Fordyce Johnston; brother, Earl Johnston; grandson Joel Stephens; and daughter-in-law Karen Blynn, of blessed memory. He is survived by his children, Robert Johnston of Silver Spring, MD; Jeffrey Johnston of Rockingham County, NC; Laura Stephens of Richmond; Lee Anne Hecker (Charles) of Fredericksburg; Edna Johnston (Ann Lloyd) of Richmond; and Sarah Johnston (Jean-Marie) of Lake Worth, Florida; grandsons, Maxwell Hecker, Richmond; Oscar Hecker (Carly), Fredericksburg; Jacob Johnston (Kaine), Silver Spring, MD; and Paul Stephens (Priscilla), La Paloma, Uruguay and Seward, Alaska; and two great-grandchildren, Josephine and Oliver Hecker. Throughout his life, Bob Johnston supported numerous political and social organizations. In lieu of flowers, he would encourage you to do the same. Remember, he considered every day to be a gift and he loved presents. The funeral will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, April 29, 2023, at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, 7800 Lew Jones Road, McKenney, VA 23872. The Rt. Rev. Susan Haynes will officiate with assistance from the Rev. Canon Willis Foster and the Rev. Liam Muller. The interment will take place at Sapony Church, McKenney with a reception immediately following at Good Shepherd. Online condolences may be conveyed to the family at