Woodstock community leader Elizabeth Johnston dies at 94
by Michelle Babcock
December 10, 2013 11:55 PM | 4967 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Well-known Woodstock community leader Elizabeth Davis Johnston died Dec. 4 at the age of 94, leaving behind a legacy of love, leadership, service and achievement.

One of Johnston’s greatest achievements was her role in creating and founding the Woodstock Public Library. Along with her work for the library, Johnston served the community in many capacities, friends and family said, leaving Woodstock better than she found it.

A memorial service will be Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Woodstock Funeral Home chapel.

The importance of libraries

Johnston’s oldest son, John Moore II, said his mother worked tirelessly to bring the Woodstock Public Library to life.

Moore was the son from Johnston’s marriage to her first husband, who died in 1955. Johnston later married Smith Johnston Jr. of Woodstock and together the couple created a lasting legacy to the community.

“Her role in the creation of the Woodstock Public Library was far greater than the donation of the land and money. She was really the driving force behind the creation of the Woodstock Public Library,” Moore said. “When I was a child, we had no public library in Woodstock. We had only the bookmobile from Canton, which came periodically and had a very limited selection. She believed very strongly in the importance of reading and the importance of libraries for education.”

Susan White, director of the Sequoyah Regional Library System, said Johnston was paramount to not only the library’s creation, but also to the library’s continued success.

“She loved the libraries and what we did, and she showed it by what she did in her life,” White said. “She came quite often when she was able. She would come and visit the library, she’s always done whatever needed to be done at that particular time.”

White met Johnston through her work for the library and said she was always a giving person, “supporting the library in so, so many ways.”

Johnston served on Cherokee County library boards from 1964 to 1991, including boards for the Woodstock Public Library, the R.T. Jones Memorial Library and the Sequoyah Regional Library System.

In positions of chair or vice chair for 23 of her 27 years on the different boards, Johnston also served as corresponding secretary and a member. For most of her time on the boards, Johnston served concurrently on the Woodstock Public Library and Sequoyah Regional Library boards.

Moore said his mother helped create the library from scratch, with the help of other concerned parents in Woodstock.

“The idea or concept of establishing a Woodstock Public Library was her idea, and she began that project from scratch. She literally went around collecting books from people to donate for the library,” he said. “She had taken some courses in library science when she was in college at Agnes Scott, so she knew enough about the Dewey decimal system and library science to work on that directly.”

Woodstock Public Library Manager Sue Stephens said that, when she started working at the library 25 years ago, the Johnston family had just donated land for a larger building.

“When I first came to work for the library, she and her husband had donated property for the old building next door,” Stephens said Tuesday. “The library came from a little storefront downtown, to a nice, 10,000-square-foot building, thanks to them.”

About eight years ago, Stephens said, the Johnston family donated another plot of land and the modern Woodstock Public Library was built.

“Elizabeth has been very instrumental in our library board,” Stephens said. “She’s been on the library board off and on for years, and she and her husband always knew that in order to keep the library running we needed books, and so they gave us book allotments, pretty much every year.”

Stephens said Johnston was kind and outgoing, extremely well-liked, and “always made you feel part of the big picture.”

“The last time I saw her, she brought friends in to show them her plaque that hangs in our foyer, and her portrait that’s in our Georgia room in the back,” Stephens said. “She was very proud of the building.”

Moore said his mother considered her greatest community accomplishment the creation of the library.

“Her contributions, and the initial conception and development of the Woodstock Public Library are generally recognized. It’s probably the achievement, outside her family, that she was most proud of,” Moore said.

A lasting legacy

From serving as the president of the Woodstock Elementary School PTA and teaching school in Roswell, to working in the Office of Price Administration in World War II and being a director of the Bank of Woodstock, Johnston’s experience and dedication are evident in her life story.

Moore said his mother was extremely involved in the community, and aided in many local improvements.

Johnston was a founder of the South Cherokee Recreation Association and served as secretary for five years, and Moore said the work was important to his mother.

“When I was growing up in Woodstock in the 1960s, we didn’t even have a little league. She and dad and some other parents were instrumental in the creation of the South Cherokee Recreation Association,” Moore said. “It was the SCRA that was initially the first park of its kind, allowing the creation of little league baseball and softball teams, and so on. She was very proud of her role in the creation and promotion of the South Cherokee Recreation Association.”

Johnston participated in organizing the R.T. Jones Memorial Hospital Auxiliary, and served as president for two years. She was the president of the Cherokee County Historical Society for four years, and served as the secretary for the Cherokee County Planning and Building Commission.

She was also heavily involved in activities at Woodstock United Methodist Church and was a lifelong member, Moore said.

Johnston taught Sunday school, was president of the United Methodist Women and was a Lay Delegate to the annual conference of the United Methodist Church.

“She was very active and very supportive of the Woodstock United Methodist Church,” Moore said. “In fact, the Christmas tree that is in the church today was given to the church by her, shortly before her death.”

Building a close-knit family

Johnston graduated from Agnes Scott College in Atlanta, in 1940, and married her first husband John W. Moore in 1942.

Her first son was born in 1947. When Moore was 7 years old, his father died and Johnston was left a single mother.

“She married my stepfather, a great man, Smith L. Johnson Jr., in 1957, and we moved from the Buckhead area in Atlanta to Woodstock,” Moore said. “Moving from Buckhead to Woodstock was a true culture shock in those days.”

Johnston’s son said his stepfather had lost his first wife to cancer before marrying his mother. With him came three children from his previous marriage, Moore said.

“We had a family of four — a blended family before blended families were popular,” Moore said of the early days of the marriage. “She and dad did a wonderful job of achieving a very strong and vibrant and loyal family, out of those pieces of two families that had been fractured by death of a parent in each case.”

The couple later had a son of their own in 1958.

Moore said that, along with helping the community, his mother’s greatest legacy is the close, loving family she helped to nurture.

“I think her greatest legacy is the close-knit family that my brothers and sisters and I have. And with our children and grandchildren,” Moore said. “That, to me, is her greatest achievement.”

Johnston is survived by her two daughters, Lucy Johnston Blackwell and Janice Johnston Kane of Woodstock; three sons, John William Moore of Big Canoe, Smith L. Johnston III of Houston and Stanley Davis Johnston of Canton; 10 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Visitation will take place Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Woodstock Funeral Home in downtown Woodstock, and the memorial service will be on Saturday at 2 p.m. with the Rev. Claude Herbert conducting the service.

Woodstock Funeral Home is at 8855 Main St. in downtown Woodstock. Burial will follow at Enon Cemetery.

Instead of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made to the Sequoyah Regional Library System, the Woodstock United Methodist Church, or the Elizabeth Johnston Scholarship Fund at Reinhardt University in Waleska.

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