William “Bill” John Johnston, 78, passed away Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, at his home in Pullman.

Bill, the oldest of four sons, was born Aug. 30, 1942, in Detroit to William V. and Nancy (Fiedor) Johnston. He grew up in Pittsburgh and received his early education there. Bill attended Penn State where he received a B.S. degree, after which he came west and began his studies in geology at the University of Idaho.

He was drafted into the U.S. Army while at the university. Bill served as a medic during the Vietnam War and was stationed in Japan during his service. Following his honorable discharge, he returned to his studies at Auburn University in Auburn, Ala. Bill received both a Master of Science and a Ph.D. from Auburn.

While at Auburn, he met Ellen Scarsbrook. They married Sept. 11, 1976, and in 1979, their first child, Miriam, was born. In 1980, he accepted a faculty position at Washington State University and moved to Pullman with his wife and young daughter. A year later, Bill and Ellen had their second child, Scott.

Bill had a distinguished career in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, retiring several years ago. Teaching was his passion and he loved all of his students. He was fondly known as “Dr. J” to his students and was active with WSU’s Turf Club. Bill enjoyed the outdoors, especially golfing, fishing and snow skiing. He loved his family and was a devoted husband and father. Bill was a member of the Pullman Presbyterian Church, serving as both a deacon and elder of the congregation. He was also involved with various church committees.

Bill is survived by his wife, Ellen, of Pullman; his daughter, Miriam, of Tacoma; his brothers, Clifford Johnston, of Middleport, N.Y., and Paul Johnston, of Pittsburgh; and his cousin, Joan Garbin, of Export, Penn. Bill was preceded in death by his son, Scott; his parents; and his brother, Richard. The memorial service will be planned at a later date when it is safer to gather. Kimball Funeral Home of Pullman has been entrusted with arrangements. Memorial donations are suggested to Orphan Acres (P.O. Box 110, Viola, ID 83872) or the Whitman County Humane Society. Online condolences may be sent to www.kimballfh.com.

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