Wilbur Sell Johnston, “Wil,” of The Village at Orchard Ridge, (97), died on February 23, 2023, at the home of his son, Alan Johnston, in Winchester, VA, surrounded by family. He was born in Winchester, VA, on 24 November 1925, the son of Wilbur R. Johnston and Vergie Carpenter Johnston.
Mr. Johnston began employment in the mailroom at Winchester Evening Star. Originally in the Handley High School class of 1944, military service in World War II from 1943 to 1946 in the Army Air Corps delayed his graduation. After serving as a Radio Technician in Texas, he was stationed in the Pacific command with the Sixth Night Fighter Squadron. He returned to Handley High-School, graduating in the Class of 1947 along with several other veterans of World War II. He received the WOW Award in American History. Transferring from Forestry and Wildlife Management at Virginia Tech, he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history in 1951 from Randolph-Macon College, Ashland, VA. On the faculty of Handley High School from 1951 he taught geography and history, serving as faculty sponsor for the Class of 1955. He earned a Master of Arts degree in geography and cartography in 1956 from the University of Virginia.
In 1953 he married Edith Whitmore of Clear Brook, VA. They moved to Arlington in 1956 where he joined the Cartography Division of Central Intelligence Agency compiling maps for intelligence reports, including three years during the Vietnam War supporting the President’s Daily Brief. He was Desk officer for Africa and the Middle East, making several trips throughout sub-Saharan Africa. He was a member of the Association of American Geographers and the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping.
Having lost their spouses to cancer in 1968 and 1969, he and Nancy Schatz Nicholson married in 1970 in Trinity Presbyterian Church, Arlington, VA. He served as Deacon and Elder at Trinity until 1987 when they moved membership to First Presbyterian Church in Winchester.
In 1972, Wil and Nancy purchased 125 acres on White Pine Ridge in Frederick County. There they developed a Tree Farm which they named Pinetop. Pinetop became a gathering place for the family and Wil cultivated his many interests there that included beekeeping, gardening, hunting and fishing. Wil and Nancy were honored with the Outstanding Tree Farm award in 1983 by the Virginia Forestry Association, Forest Conservationists of the Year 1983 by Virginia Wildlife Federation, and Conservationists of the Year from Woodmen of the World in 1986. They were members of the Virginia Forestry Association since 1974 where he held several terms on the Board of Directors.
In retirement, Johnston published four local histories, a dozen maps on local history, and a number of articles in the Journal of the Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society. From Preservation of Historic Winchester he received the Ben Belchic Award in local history in 1996 and 2017. Shenandoah University bestowed the James and Susan Steck Miller Award for Community Service in 2002. The W-FC Historical Society recognized him in 1996 for Invaluable Historical Services and in 2013 and 2017 presented him with its Presidential Award of Appreciation.
From 1992 to 1998 Johnston served on the Winchester Tree Commission and for twelve years on the Frederick County Gypsy Moth Advisory Committee. A member of the W-FC Historical Society from 1953 to 1956, and from 1985 to the present, he and his wife Nancy became Life Members in 1987. He was a member of the W-FCHS Publication Committee since 1988 and on the Board of Directors since 1992. He was a member of the Winchester Chapter of International Association of Torch Clubs and of the Shenandoah University Society of History Fellows.
Preceding him in death were his wife, Nancy S. Johnston, his parents, and his brothers Dr. Charles E. Johnston and Ronald E. Johnston, and his first wife, Edith Whitmore Johnston. He is survived by his sister Helen J. Steele (Mrs. Dannie Steele), and six children and their spouses: Nancy W. Johnston and husband Ron Shifflett of Warrenton, VA; Alan and Brenda Johnston of Frederick County, VA; Steve and Ellen Nicholson of Falls Church, VA; Dave Nicholson of Purcellville, VA; Laurie and Jose Bautista of Ashton, MD; and Prof. Linda Nicholson (Cornell University) and Lou Carlucci of Ithaca, NY. Also surviving are grandchildren and their spouses, Reagan Johnston, Mary and Patrick Maclaine, Solomon and Missy Adams, Katie and Brian Gnegy, Ron Shifflett, Jr., Renee Shifflett, and Ryan Shifflett, Christine and Devin Anonsen, Jacob Nicholson, Jackie Bautista, David and Hanna Bautista, as well as many great grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at First Presbyterian Church, 116 S. Loudoun St., Winchester, VA, on Monday, March 6, 2023 at 2pm.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Blue Ridge Hospice, 333 W. Cork St. Suite 405, Winchester, VA, 22601, 540-313-9200 or www.brhospice.org.