At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.
Kalamazoo Humane Society
4239 S. Westnedge Ave.
Kalamazoo, MI 49008
Life Story / Obituary
When reflecting on the life of Mark Johnston, it is easy to see that he worked hard, but he knew how to play hard, too. He loved having a good time, and things were even better when he was sharing the things he loved with the people he loved. Mark spent much of his life with his true soul mate, and together they experienced so many of the things they both enjoyed. With a love for fast cars and heading out on the open road on his motorcycle, he was also a bit of a free spirit who didn’t shy away from doing things his own way. Mark was the sort of person who didn’t do anything halfway, and his attention to detail was unmatched. Although he will be deeply missed, he will never be forgotten.
It seems only fitting that Mark’s journey began during a time that was as colorful as he was. It was the 1950s when televisions were becoming part of our homes, James Dean dominated the silver screen, and Jerry Lee Lewis mesmerized crowds both through his music and his wild side as he was known to light pianos on fire. Amidst this exciting time was a time of great anticipation for Robert and Marilyn Johnston as they were eagerly anticipating the birth of their new baby as summer held Vicksburg, Michigan, firmly in its grip in August of 1954. The big day finally arrived when the baby boy they named Mark R. drew his first breath. He was the oldest of three boys in his family as he was raised alongside his brother, Bryan, who was two years younger and his brother, Todd, who was younger than Mark by 10 years.
Raised in the family home on Pickerel Lake, Mark was a young boy of his generation. His father was a truck driver while his mother worked in a local factory. Mark loved fishing, even as a young boy, and he was perfectly content to fish all day long by himself. His more adventurous side also took root as he got into go-kart racing, BMX bikes, and just general boy mischief of all kinds. As a student Mark attended local schools including Vicksburg High School where he played football and was generally too smart for his own good. After graduating from high school in 1971, Mark worked as a mechanic at several places, was a technical writer at Clark Forklift, and a mechanical engineer in the automotive industry using skills that he learned all on his own.
Life was forever changed for Mark when he met the love of his life while at a local bar, Stan and Ollies. Her name was Pamela, and they soon started dating. It was exactly one year after they met that Mark and Pam were married on October 21, 1982, at St. Michael Lutheran Church. The couple spent their wedding night in Plainwell.
The couple lived in a home in Kalamazoo, and to their relationship Mark brought his two children, Angela who was four at the time and Mike who was seven. In the mid-nineties they moved to Richland where they have been living for the past 22 years.
In addition to being a mechanic, Mark was also a Master Woodworker who started his own business, Hardwood Specialties, which he owned and operated for 12 years. At first he worked with cabinets and windows, doing all custom work that he designed and installed. Mark later got into clocks and serving trays, and he also built a pole barn for his shop. He more recently got into Stanley Steam cars from the early 1900s as they all had the classic wooden bodies. Mark’s exemplary work and attention to detail didn’t go unnoticed as he even sold some of his cars to people in England. He has been likened to the mad scientist with his crazy, bushy hair, and he always gave 110 percent to his work as well.
Throughout most of his life Mark was a man of many interests. He loved NASCAR racing, and this was something that both he and Pam enjoyed together. He was a Ford guy through and through whose favorite driver was Mark Martin. Many of their camping trips also focused on racing as they camped in Bristol, Tennessee, MIS in Michigan, and Indy for time trials in addition to Silver Lake. Mark and Pam also regularly fished together, usually on inland lakes. They also enjoyed bowling together including on leagues, and they both had motorcycles and loved heading out on the open road. Mark was also a music guy who loved classic rock and all the great rock guitar players. Eric Clapton was his favorite, but he also liked Stevie Nicks, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Styx, Boston, Journey, and Stevie Ray Vaughan whose last performance Mark saw in person. Mark even took lessons to learn to play the guitar, and he also taught his granddaughter how to play “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple. No matter where he was or what he was doing, Mark always had a radio going.
Around the house Mark was usually doing something. He was an amazing cook and baker who could make anything from a 10 layer chocolate cake to fantastic grilled enchiladas. Mark became a genuine dog lover who had two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Reggie and Gunner. He did enjoy bow hunting, although he rarely had the time for it, and he was never really one for yard work but he did enjoy picking berries from his blackberry bushes with his grandchildren. Mark was a longtime smoker who also liked Michelob beer, and he more recently got into club soda and coffee, which he was known to spill everywhere! Mark loved the holidays, especially Christmas, and he loved spoiling his grandchildren. When relaxing, he liked watching both Star Wars and M*A*S*H. In fact, it has been said that he has seen every episode.
A man who knew what he wanted and did it to perfection, Mark Johnston was an extraordinary man to know and love. He was determined and driven to succeed with an adventurous side, too. Type A through and through, Mark deeply loved his family, and he treasured nothing more than being surrounded by their love. He will never be forgotten.
Mark R. Johnston, of Richland, died on March 18, 2016, at his home. Mark’s family includes his wife, Pamela Johnston; 2 children, Mike (Aimee) Johnston and Angela (Ben) Liskovec; 3 grandchildren: Alexis, Autumn and Olivia; parents, Robert and Marilyn Johnston; brother, Todd (Amy) Johnston; and many nieces and nephews. Mark was preceded in death by his brother, Bryan Johnston. Services will be held Tuesday, 1:00 p.m. at the Life Story Funeral Home, Betzler-Kalamazoo, 6080 Stadium Drive; 375-2900 followed by a reception in the Life Story Center. Please visit Mark’s personal web page at www.lifestorynet.com, where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his online guestbook before coming to the funeral home. Memorial donations may be made to Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services, Grand Rapids or Kalamazoo Humane Society.