Eleanor June Patricia Johnston Smith returned to her heavenly father the morning of Sunday, July 17, after a brief stint under the kind care of Hospice of North Idaho.
She was born March 22, 1924, as her parents Josephine (Jo) E. Johnston and Ivin R. Johnston passed through Ontario, Ore. A year later they moved from Fruitland to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and soon purchased the family (and her current) home on Foster Avenue. Brothers Bob and Don soon followed, completing the family. She adored her baby brothers, although she maintained that they always “ganged up” on her. All three attended the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) Academy, where Eleanor graduated from a tiny class of three senior women. She attended the University of Idaho in the midst of WWII, studying home economics and business. Sad that so many local boys were turning up on lists from the War Department, she took a break from school and returned home to work for Inland Motor Freight.
Eleanor finished her degree, a bachelor's in business, at Oregon State (Corvallis). She then worked as secretary for several local Coeur d’Alene firms, and later at the Atlas Tie Company — where she sometimes was lucky enough to go ice skating on the frozen lake edge during lunch hour.
At 25, Eleanor moved to Seattle to take a job with Bogle, Bogle & Gates, then the largest law firm in the city — she was considered an ace legal secretary. In 1955, she met and, within three months, married attorney William R. (Bill) Smith, a partner at Graham, Dunn, Johnston (no relation) & Rosenquist. Their only child, Dianne, was born in 1957.
Eleanor had three main passions in life: her family (including her animals) her creative pursuits and music. Although she dearly loved Coeur d’Alene, and deeply missed her two brothers, she always said the happiest decades of her life were spent as a homemaker in Seattle.
She truly made an art of it. She attacked housework every morning like a military campaign, singing at the top of her lungs throughout. She would pause for a brief sun bath — on the living room rug, with the cat and dog by her side — then spend what remained of the day on her various passion projects: sewing, tailoring, knitting, upholstery, piano, accordion, ukulele — whatever she was interested in at the time — every and anything involving her hands. She would master a skill or cuisine and then move on to something entirely different. Eleanor was something of an inventor, following in the steps of her own father, with most of her inventions small household items. She was always improving her home and family — and, like most inventors, now and then would blow up the oven or washing machine when something went awry.
All of this was endlessly interesting to her husband. Theirs was a marriage of true opposites. In fact they were quite compatibly opposite in just about every possible way. She said he was Oscar, she was Felix — the original Odd Couple. She ran emotionally hot, he was a calm type. He was a specialist (law) and she was a generalist (she ran everything else in their lives, including repairs to machinery). She was manic, energetic, he was deliberative, methodical. Somehow, it worked and worked well. He loved to see what she was up to when he would get home at night, teased her mercilessly and loved her always.
She unwillingly became a young widow — Bill died at age 50 of kidney failure. In the last year of his life, she, of course, learned to do home dialysis, and would accompany him to his office so he could continue with his own passion — the practice of law. They were a team, always. With his last breath he told her that he would rather have had 23 years with her than a century with someone else.
Is there time and space to also say what a magnificent mother she was to Dianne? That would be a very long book indeed. She was so loved by her daughter and all her friends.
Eleanor was preceded in death by her beloved husband, Bill, her parents, Jo and Ivin Johnston, her brother, Bob Johnston and her sister-in-law, Fern Johnston (Don). Sadly, and most recently, by grand-nephew (Bob’s grandson) Robby Skogen.
She is survived by her daughter, Dianne, brother Don Johnston, and 12 nieces and nephews (by age): Terry Johnston, Lisa Wheeler, Marcia Bingham, Robert I. (Bob) Johnston (Antoinette), Wendy Stewart (Mack), Jody Beck (John), Linda Skogen, Shari Wilhelm, Tom Johnston (Ann), Tami Johnson (Jody), Tim Johnston (Marcee), Tina O’Sullivan (Derek); their children and a calico cat, Weenie.
A funeral Mass will be held at noon on Friday, July 29 at St. Pius X Catholic Church, followed by a reception at St. Thomas Parish Center.
Any memorial donations may be for St. Thomas Catholic Church or Companions Animal Center (formerly known as Kootenai Humane Society).