Joan S. Johnston

November 10, 1942 - June 4, 2023

11/10/1942 - 06/04/2023

Joan Sandra Johnston, 80, of Newport News, passed away Sunday, June 4, 2023.

She was born Nov. 10, 1942, in Syracuse, New York, the daughter of the late Hazel Bernice Vaccarelli. She graduated from Norwin High School in Pennsylvania in 1960 and from Pennsylvania State University in 1964 with a degree in mathematics.

Joan honed her skills as a journalist by reporting for the Palm Beach Post in West Palm Beach, Florida, and then joined the staff of the Newport News Daily Press where she retired in 1998 as editor of the Lifestyle and features team. She was a role model at work and at home, where she managed a family of six and served her community in a variety of ways.

Joan fulfilled her curiosity as a lifelong learner through travel, cultural events, book clubs, and bridge clubs. She was as comfortable attending plays and classical music performances at the Wells Theater in Norfolk as she was cheering in the grandstands of the Langley Speedway. She enjoyed skiing, camping, and hiking in the Shenandoah Valley, and travel to faraway places including Hawaii, Jamaica and Ireland.

Along with her husband, Joan never missed a family member’s ball game or school activity, and made family birthdays special with her famous “Sloppy Joans” and by writing heartfelt birthday poems that never fully rhymed but hit the right notes.

Among the many ways she served her community were as a director of Newport News’ Trinity Lutheran School and a member of the Order of the Eastern Star.

Joan was preceded in death by Hassell “Pete” Johnston, her loyal and loving husband of 50 years; her son, Steven Kyle Johnston; and grandchildren Jason Allen Johnston and Brooke Nicole Bristow. She is survived by her son, Michael Johnston and wife, Donna; daughter Diana Spencer and husband, Tracy; son David Johnston, and wife, Kelly; brother Bill Vaccarelli and wife Debbie; brother Mike Vaccarelli and wife Brenda; and grandchildren Mitchell Bristow; Talley, Emma, Leigh, Nancy and Nathan Johnston; and great-grandchildren Brady, Aubree, TJ and Ariel Johnston; Layla Francis; and Wyatt and Mason Bristow.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Alzheimer’s Association at

A celebration of life will be held in November around Joan’s birthday in Newport News with details to be communicated at a later date.

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Robert Bristow
3 months ago

To such a sweet woman,u will b missed by many,always welcome me into her home,had the best sloppy joes,many birthdays at her house,I’m so glad your in peace with the lord God. And your husband pete,,lotsof love rob

3 months ago

Joan was my editor at the Newport News Daily Press, and she was always a model of stability, good will, good humor, and kindness. I am so glad I knew her and worked with her. I send my sympathies to her family, who I know must be grieving terribly. Joan was a person who always wanted the best for those around her, who always strived for fairness, and who made the world a little better wherever she was.

Cecilia Newton
3 months ago

I met Joan and her family when they lived in the Beechwood area of Newport News. She was a lovely lady and devoted mother. Thoughts and prayers to her family.

Dan and Sondra Deibler
3 months ago

We will miss Joan but know she is with Pete in heaven, love snd prayers for the whole family

Brandon Francis and Layla
3 months ago

Offering our sincere, dearest condolences to the family and friends. Joan was a very special and sweet lady. I loved her like family too. Sending you all big hugs and lots of love ❤️ so sorry for your loss. Her and Pete are together with the Lord 😇😇May God bless and comfort you all 🙏

Jeff Benthall
3 months ago

To the Johnston /and /Vacarelli Family:
We send our most sincere heartfelt condolences to you during your loss.

. We are also praying for you all asking God to give you strength and to comfort you in His loving arms.

Jeff and Kathy