23 June 2012

Remembering Ralph Johnston

We celebrated the Requiem Mass for our former Headmaster, Ralph Thomas Johnston, on 22 June 2012, the Feast of Ss. John Fisher & Thomas More.  The church was filled with hundreds of mourners, as we commended him to God's eternal keeping.  The following tribute was written by Deacon James Orr, and was included in the bulletin for the Mass:


The parishioners of Our Lady of the Atonement knew his name.  They saw it printed on the front of the bulletin for years.  Perhaps they saw him attending the Sunday evening Mass in Latin, of which he was quite fond, but it was the students, parents, faculty and staff of The Atonement Academy who knew more than just the name.  They knew this person on a day-to-day basis.  They knew him as leader, colleague, mentor, and some knew him as friend.

His obituary stated that, upon coming to the academy, “he began volunteering…as the textbook inventory manager, the college counselor, an instructor in technology, economics and government, a member of the school council, and eventually the headmaster.”  This reveals a trait in Ralph which was so welcomed at the academy, and that trait was helpfulness.

He volunteered to help with the textbooks, because it needed to be done.  It involved moving heavy boxes and getting dirty, but Ralph never complained.  He volunteered to be the college counselor because we didn’t have anyone to do this necessary work, and he was so good with our students and their parents in this regard.  He volunteered to teach, because there was a need for his expertise.  Everywhere Ralph saw a need, he filled it.  He never asked anyone to do anything that he was unwilling to do if need be.  He’d just as frequently be found on a ladder installing a projector, or moving some speakers and setting up some microphone, or carrying some boxes or books, as he would be found writing some design proposal or meeting with a person with a question, or steering some senior down a path which would forever change his or her life.

Ralph was everywhere, and his personality was one of complete giving.  Saying that he was “helpful” is an understatement; he was invaluable, but never one to insist – never one to demand.  So many times, Ralph would stop talking when another interrupted, or drop his head in humility.  He was self-effacing and charitably humble; a rare character trait to find in a leader.  He was a good Catholic man.   He lived the message of the Gospel.

Ralph was a firm and vocal supporter of the American republic, the founding documents, the free market, our cherished constitutional liberties, and the freedoms so many take for granted.  Ralph was a true patriot.

The hours of service he gave to our school were immense, and so greatly appreciated by those who knew him.  The personal touch and insight he offered to those in need will never be forgotten in our lifetime.  And his greatest asset – his brilliant mind!  Ralph knew a little bit about most things and he knew a tremendous amount about some things, and he willingly used and directed his mind for the improvement of the kingdom of God.   We will miss you very much, Ralph!  Rest eternal, dear friend, and may light perpetual shine upon you.