Gilbert "Gib" Delano Johnston was born in Sultan, WA, September 28, 1938, and his family said goodbye to him on September 12, 2023, just short of his 85th birthday, due to a progressive neurological disease.
The Early Years
Gib was born into a large, pioneering Hoodsport family to Charlie and Ruth Johnston. He was one of nine children. Gib was exceptionally bright and hard working. In early years, Gib attended a one room schoolhouse in Hoodsport and was recruited to help teach the class. By the age of 10, he had secured a job at the local grocery store to help the family. He drove a truck for the U.S. Forest Service in the summer. Driving since age 14, he confidently applied for the position and "no one asked for my license."
An Early Commitment to Service
In 1955, at the age of 16, he graduated from Shelton High and signed up for service. He tested into the Navy's rigorous electrical engineering program and though the attrition rate was high, Gib excelled and served as an electronic technician aboard the destroyer Charles R Ware (DD-865), sailing around the world during the Cold War.
Returning to Mason County after his military service, Gib bought a BSA Golden Flash motorcycle, and with nephew Paul, brother Ed and other family and friends became a charter member of the Trailblazers Motorcycle Club, riding for community, charity and just plain fun.
Love & Family
Gib soon became better acquainted with former Shelton High School classmate Sharon Peste, who lived across the street from his sister. They wed June 30, 1961, and enjoyed a beautiful marriage for more than 62 years. Gib carried a high school picture of Sharon in his wallet, often showing it and saying, "I got the girl."
Gib and Sharon were young parents of four children at the early age of 24. Gib worked at Shelton's Simpson lumber mill, often double shifts to make ends meet. He brought treats home in his lunch pail for the kids, and loved family camping trips, blackberry picking, clam digging, and Johnston family reunions.
The Beauty of Nature
Gib loved the outdoors. He spent his teen years backpacking through the Olympics with a Trapper Nelson wood frame pack. Later, he packed his young kids and grandkids around to show them the beauty of nature. Observing wildlife, ant hills, forests, and the gift of a huckleberry bush, he guided his grandsons, age five and six, to the summit of Mt. Elinor. He chopped and meticulously stacked cords of wood, enough to heat the house for years. He could climb a tree with belt and spurs and fell it with expert precision.
Gib loved the Olympic Peninsula and spent many hours digging razor clams and geoduck and making the best clam fritters one could imagine. He would say with gratitude of their Beacon Point property, "tide's out, table's set."
A Principled Man.
Gib was a good man; responsible, trustworthy, loyal. He was long on patience, and short on tolerating bull. Justice motivated him. He was known for standing up for others. He was elected shop steward with the International Woodworkers of America (IWA) and became president of the IWA Local 3-38, where he fought for mill worker safety improvements, the rights of women facing sexual harassment in the workplace, protecting forest health and banning the export of raw logs, which eliminated local jobs associated with the production of finished products.
He helped displaced workers connect with reading programs when he realized some smart and capable workers were unable to read. He helped form recovery programs when he learned workers not only faced the pain of addiction but also the loss of their jobs. He helped negotiate a deal with Simpson – get help through rehab and your job will be waiting.
For many years, Gib was a skilled electrician for Simpson. After working for the union, he secured a job at the state of Washington. By then, much had changed with technological advances, but Gib not only tested in, he proceeded to do the practical that was missing – he mapped the electrical connections behind the office walls to prevent unnecessary demolition in the future. That's what Gib was about – leaving places better for others.
Dedication to Community
Gib was a man of few words, with a brilliant sense of humor and a wealth of knowledge. He had a quiet strength and smiling eyes. He and Sharon hosted many gatherings, potlucks, horseshoe matches, parties filled with banjo music, and weekly games with their bowling league. Above all he cared about family and his "neighbor". Who is your neighbor? According to Gib, whoever was in need.
He often picked up hitchhikers. He opened his home and welcomed everyone. Gib pitched in wherever needed, whether help to landscape at Shelton Presbyterian Church, co-leading Shelton's Team Marlene & the Class of 50's Relay for Life, or as President of the Rhododendron Society. He was a longtime member of Mason County Democrats, volunteering on campaigns for Rep. Doug Sayan, U.S. Reps.Bonker, Swift and Unsoeld, who he believed were working to help their communities.
A Fun and Positive Approach to Life
Gib was fun and always game, cheering on Sharon as she ran marathons, dressing in Halloween costumes Sharon made – as Tinkerbell and Little Red Rid Riding Hood, basket, and all – and giving his kids and grandkids rides on his boots as he strolled around the house, pretending he didn't know they were there.
Through the years, he truly whistled while he worked. Even when his illness took away his ability to speak, Gib would give a thumbs-up with a smile, and blow kisses to Sharon. He lived and died with grace and love.
The Johnston Family
Gib had a family tree with many branches and deep roots. He is preceded in death by brothers, Dubb, Walter, Stan, and sisters, Lorna and Dixie. He is survived by sisters Charlotte and CharEll, brother Ed, and by the love of his life, Sharon, children Laura, Shelly, David, Terri and Dan, and more grandchildren, great grandchildren and close friends than can possibly be listed here.
Please Join Us on Saturday, October 21st to Celebrate Gib
A celebration of Gib's life will be held Saturday, October 21, 2:00 p.m. at Shelton Presbyterian Church, 1430 E. Shelton Spring Road. To honor Gib, in lieu of flowers, please do as he did -- pick up litter, turn out the lights, lend a hand to a neighbor, meet a community need or sit with little ones to find "Waldo". Donations can also be made to Hood Canal Food Bank, 331 N. Finch Creek Road, Hoodsport, WA 98548.