Cover photo for Fern Johnston's Obituary
Fern Johnston Profile Photo
1927 Fern 2021

Fern Johnston

May 22, 1927 — May 29, 2021



By her own description “Fern Girl” was “small but mighty”. At just 4’10” tall, she was easy to underestimate, but heaven help those who did. This tiny tornado had a way of getting things done.

After an early life marked by trauma and tragedy, she was determined to live life to the fullest – and so she did. A self-described “flibbertigibbet” she embraced new experiences, new situations and new friends.

With my dad (her beloved “Freddie”) she built a home, a family and a reputation as a hostess. She loved nothing better than entertaining at their beautiful lakeside Muskoka home. Everyone who crossed her threshold was made to feel welcome and accepted. They’d probably also be treated to one (or more – sometimes many more) of her stories.

And such stories! Even in her nineties and in the advanced stages of dementia, she regaled the staff of her long-term care home with tales of her childhood on Aunt Mary’s farm in Palermo with her sister June.

Her time on the farm likely accounted for her love of animals – all kinds of animals. Except, that is, for the one unfortunate bear who was foolish enough to eat the birdseed out of her feeder. Indignant that the birds would be deprived of what was rightfully theirs, Mom, aged 80, brandished the broom she’d been using to sweep the porch and chased the shocked bear deep into the woods.

As her daughter, such stories caused me great concern at the time. It’s only in retrospect that I understand that I shouldn’t have been surprised and that my Mom’s fearlessness was something to be proud of.

It’s also in retrospect that I’ve come to understand her greatest gift to me – the belief that I could do anything I set my mind to. That was an unusual message from a mother to a daughter in the fifties, and I will be forever grateful for it.

Rest in Peace, Mom


Formerly of Toronto, and a resident of Gravenhurst for many years, Fern passed away peacefully at Leacock Care Centre, Orillia, on Saturday, May 29, 2021 in her 95th year. Fern was the beloved wife of the late Frederick Johnston (2017) and loving mother of Valerie Johnston. Dear sister of Albert Ashby, the late June DiMarco, late Harold Shearer, and late Irvin

A private graveside service was held at Prospect Cemetery, Toronto.

A Celebration of Life will be held as soon as Covid Restrictions allow.

Memorial contributions to the Humane Society of Muskoka greatly appreciated.

Personal condolences and memories may be shared at:


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