Published: 2:38 pm, Tue. Dec. 6th, 2016Updated: 2:36 pm
Memorial services are scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday, Dec. 9, at First United Methodist Church for Don Johnston of Artesia.
Johnston, 83, passed away Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Artesia, surrounded by family.
Gavin Vaughan will officiate at the services, with interment at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, at Rowe Cemetery in Hedley, Texas.
Don was born Dec. 17, 1932, in Clarendon (Donley County), Texas, to Walter and Ethel (Kidd) Johnston.
On Aug. 21, 1956, he married Janice Powers at First United Methodist Church in Artesia. The couple enjoyed 53 years of marriage until Jan was called to her heavenly home.
During his youth, Don found himself hungry in the post-Dust Bowl era in the panhandle of Texas. He got creative, lying about his age, and joined the U.S. Army in 1948 at the age of 16. He first served with the 36th Infantry Division Signal Corps. Don served for numerous months before the Army discovered his true age. He returned home to the panhandle sometime in 1949 or early 1950, resuming his former job delivering milk for Plains Creamery. Don reenlisted in the Army in July 1953, where he served with Btry. C 564th AAA Bn. at Fort Bliss. He was honorably discharged in June 1955 and was a Korean Conflict veteran.
Don attended primary school in the country schools surrounding Hedley and Clarendon, Texas. He completed his GED during his second enlistment with the Army.
Don wore many hats. Many who knew him referred to him as the milkman. He began his milkman career at approximately age 13 as a Plains Creamery driver for the areas surrounding Pampa, Texas. After his first service with the Army, he used his connections to return to Plain Creamery as a driver until he returned to serve his country with the Army. In his later years, he once again found himself returning to his youth as a milk delivery man in Artesia. Throughout his milk career, Don worked for Plains Creamery, Price’s Creamery and Clardy’s Dairy.
He was also a professional wrestler. In the beginning, he delivered milk by day and wrestled by night. He was the 1956 Rocky Mountain Light Heavyweight Champion. His wrestling career spanned more than two decades.
Don was also known as the bread man, delivering bread for Golden Krust Bakery, servicing stores throughout the Pecos Valley. He was a bee keeper who produced and distributed honey by the truckload. He took great pride in furnishing the Bulldog field house with 55-gallon drums of honey for the players. He had a longstanding firewood business, with which many of his family members and friends helped him throughout the years.
Don owned Johnston Construction, which began as a pipeline, steel-bolted tank and dirt work company. He was a master tank builder and traveled the United States building tanks. He enjoyed a wonderful relationship with Colombian Tank Company, and they continued to consult with him until his death. He also purchased and operated Johnston Manor (assisted living facility) in the former Artesia General Hospital building on Roselawn Avenue.
In the 1970s, Don became a lay minister in the United Methodist Church. He attended seminary school at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. He served as a pastor in the church for nearly 30 years, servicing Clarke Memorial in Artesia as well as United Methodist Churches in Hope, Hagerman, Lake Arthur and Loco Hills. Those who heard him preach knew God had blessed him with a gift. He was honored to perform numerous marriages as well as final services for countless friends and family members.
Don took much joy in his family but especially his grandsons, who enjoyed working with and learning from him. He also loved to share that he had obtained his crane operator’s license at the age of 76 and continued to use that license while working with his grandsons in the oilfield until 2015. This was well after his diagnosis of Stage 4 bone cancer in 2013.
Survivors include daughters Barbee Lux and husband Jim of Denver, Colo., and Kim Crockett of Artesia; son Don Johnston Jr. of Missouri; grandchildren Tony Weant and wife Angel, and Tiffany Alexander and husband Craig, both of Denver, David Johnston of Nashville, Tenn., and Doepp Crockett and wife Kristy, and Cutler Crockett, both of Artesia; great-grandchildren Aliyah and Evan Weant, Trevor and Andra Alexander, Spencer and Sydney Johnston, Hagan and Ella Crockett, and Cason Crockett; brothers Gary Johnston, Radell Johnston, Billy Ray Johnston and Dan Foster; and sisters Cleta Klepper, Pam Mason, Linda Haykus and Judy Lekovich.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Janice Johnston; his parents; brothers Ernie Johnston and Charles Johnston; sisters Dorothy Vaught and Patricia Sue Wallace; granddaughter Bambi Johnston; and numerous friends.
Arrangements are under the direction of Terpening & Son Mortuary.