Joseph S. Johnston

Joseph S. Johnston

Joseph Shackford Johnston, Jr. (Joe) died on Saturday, November 14 after a damn good fight against bile duct cancer. Joe liked to say he was one of the rare DC natives, having been born in DC on March 31, 1947. His father, Dr. Joseph Shackford Johnston, Sr, was a Methodist minister in the Virginia conference, and as a result, Joe grew up in Alexandria, Richmond, and Norfolk. His mother, Edna Cralle Sanders Johnston, was a native of White Stone, VA, and Joe spent summers in this lovely town bounded by the Chesapeake Bay and the Rappahannock and Potomac rivers.

Joe earned his bachelor’s degree from Randolph-Macon College and his PhD from the University of Chicago, both in English literature. His MBA was from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. But those were just the formal markers of his education. He was also an avid student of trees, birds, geology, wildflowers, and clouds. During the last few years, he was writing a novel. He was a voracious reader of travel literature, through which he trekked the world, learning about different cultures, histories, and people. He was aces at “General Knowledge,” a frustrating game he played with his sons, demonstrating the value of being well educated. He also excelled at the extended push up and the hand slap game. If he told you he was a great golfer, he was lying, but that was his ambition.

Joe also worked. His career was spent in higher education as a faculty member, a college staff member, an association executive, and a search consultant. He was a scholar who published numerous books on the kind of education that makes a good citizen and a careful, curious thinker. That was what Joe valued and what he was.

Joe had two sons, Andrew Shackford Johnston and Stephen Sanders Johnston, both of Annapolis and both much loved. They were smart enough to marry Trisha and Christina respectively, and thanks to them, Joe had four granddaughters, smart and strong girls. Joe also loved his sisters, Anne Owen of Kilmarnock, VA, and Ginger Philbrick of White Stone, VA, very much.

Joe and his wife of 19 years, Susan Whealler Johnston, lived a happy life in Berryville, VA. They also enjoyed spending time in Big Valley in Highland County, Virginia. Susan misses him like mad.

A private family service will be held in White Stone, VA, and when this horrible pandemic is behind us, Joe’s life will be celebrated at Christ Church in Millwood, VA. Memorial donations in Joe’s name can be made to the Valley Conservation Council which protects the land and the culture of the Shenandoah Valley that Joe loved.

Arrangements are being handled by Enders & Shirley Funeral Home, Berryville.

To view the obituary and send condolences online, please visit

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