David Johnson’s sudden death leaves a hole in our community

By David F. Rooney

Revelstoke suffered a tremendous loss on Sunday with the sudden death of David Johnson, chairman of the  Revelstoke Community Energy Corporation, president of the Revelstoke Heritage Railway Society  and a much admired patron of the arts.

The 67-year-old owner of Minto Manor on Mackenzie Avenue died Sunday morning of what friends described as a heart attack.

“What a huge loss for Revelstoke,” said family friend, Leslie Evans.

“David was such an active man and he cared very much for our community.”

David was an extremely intelligent and perceptive man with a terrific sense of humour who had a passion for railway history.

He and his wife, Edna Mae, came to Revelstoke nine years ago after he retired from Georges Vanier College in Montreal where he taught chemistry. In that time they immersed themselves in local life.

“I was totally devastated,” said Jennifer Dunkerson, executive director of the Railway Museum. “On behalf of the museum and the Heritage Railway Society we extend our deepest sympathy to Edna Mae and their family.”

He and Edna Mae owned Minto Manor on Mackenzie Avenue and frequently hosted concerts and other events at their home.

“My heart goes out to Edna Mae and their family,” said Mayor David Raven. “David’s death leaves a number of holes in our community. Both the Energy Corp. and the Railway Museum will miss him.”

So, too, will many people at City Hall, he said.

“David was a valued member of our community. Personally, I’ll miss him greatly. He was a sage and wise mentor.”

Carol Palladino, chairwoman of the Revelstoke Arts Council, said David and Edna Mae “have made significant contributions to arts and culture in Revelstoke” through their involvement with the Railway Museum, the Visual Arts Centre and their hosting of the Blue Moon concert series and other events at their B&B.

She said David’s personal qualities will be greatly missed.

“David possessed a quiet but steely determination,” she said. “He knew what he wanted and he knew how to get it but he was never provocative. He was always very respectful of other people and different points of view. We’ll miss those qualities.”

Family friend, Geoff Battersby, recognized that, too.

“He was a man with lots of depth,” he said. “He’ll be missed by many people especially at St. Peter’s. He was a leader of the Anglican Church here and often did the sermons when the minister couldn’t be here.”

The news of David’s passing spread rapidly and Georges Vanier College, where he had worked since 1974, issued a statement on Monday morning:

“David was a pillar of Vanier College, starting as a chemistry teacher at Snowdon campus in 1974 and immediately taking an active role in the program system development of the Snowdon campus and on the Board of Directors of Vanier College,” said  Gilbert Héroux, Director General of the college. “He served for as interim Sector Head at Snowdon (1979-80) and then that campus’ Academic Dean (1980 – 1986). He was invited to become Dean of Applied Technologies under the reorganization following the move of Snowdon to Ste-Croix in 1986. In 1993-94 he became Academic Dean of the College and retired from that position in Vanier College in 1999-2000, staying for two years longer to work on such endeavours as the Bell Science Fair.

“His career at Vanier was long and fruitful and he shepherded through many changes ranging from moves and the resulting re- organizations to new pedagogy and the integration of information technology. He maintained his community involvement and interest in things new in Revelstoke, British Columbia where he moved after his retirement, most recently as Revelstoke Community Energy Corporation president. Yet he visited Vanier often to catch up with activities here and most, notably for those Thursday afternoon volleyball games.

“His passing is a loss to us all. Our sympathies are extended to his wife, Edna-Mae and his son and daughters, and their families, and his many friends and colleagues. Funeral arrangements will be announced when known.”

A man of faith, grace, wit and intelligence who believed in the value of community involvement and service, David Johnson will be sorely missed in Revelstoke.

Here are some photos taken of David in his various capacities over the last few years:

David Johnson was a pillar of the Anglican community. Here he poses with Deacon Cathleen Busch and Rev. Dan Meakes. Revelstoke Current file photo
David truly enjoyed Railway Days. It was one of the high points of the year for him — and not just because he was president of the Revelstoke Heritage Railway Society, either. We think it was because he got to ring the bell to kick off this annual event. That's Railway Museum Executive Director Jennifer Dunkerson beside him. Revelstoke Current file photo
Here, David describes the Revelstoke Community Energy Corporation's Energy and Emmissions Plan to local stakeholders. As chairman of the publicly-owned corporation he immersed himself in its details and worked to make it a sustainable project. "As far as RCEC is concerned I was happy to leave it in David's hands," said Geoff Battersby, his friend and predecessor the RCEC board. "He was the right man for the job." Revelstoke Current file photo
Another moment David Johnson enjoyed was the 125 anniversary celebration of the Canadian Pacific Railway at Craigallechie. Revelstoke Current file photo
David was also a member of the Bygone Era Entertainment Society, which donates the money raised through their Christmas Magic Lantern shows to charity, in this case Patti Larson of the Community Connections Food Bank. That's David on the right. Revelstoke Current file photo
Here's David presenting a lifetime membership in the Heritage Railway Society to Ken Magnes. Revelstoke Current file photo
David and Edna Mae have played host to visiting dignitaries over the years, including forrmer Lieut. Gov, Iona Campanolo and, here, the late Lord Revelstoke when he visited the community in 2009 to participate in the Homecoming celebrations. Revelstoke Current file photo