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 www.act.alz.org.
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.