He was a force in the quest to eradicate hunger and homelessness in the Milwaukee area, and volunteered for numerous charitable foundations. Deeply Catholic, his faith permeated the 40 years he worked as a public relations executive, his family life, hobbies and recreation.

Stephen Johnstone, pictured in this November 2009 photo taken in Venice, California, was a force to eradicate hunger and homelessness in the Milwaukee area. He died Sept. 8. (Submitted photo courtesy the Johnstone family)“My dad was an incredibly generous person and we all knew that the most important thing to him was family,” said his daughter, Gina Murray of St. Paul, Minnesota. “Children were always important to my dad and he made time to sacrifice himself to whatever cost available to my child. On Sunday, though he didn’t have much breath, he read stories to my 2-year-old daughter, Juliana.”

Stephen Fawcett Johnstone died Sept. 8, of cancer. He was 70.

According to Murray, he loved largely and gave of himself to everyone.

“He was a generous man and no matter how busy he was, we always knew we were loved,” she said. “Everyone talks about money as the greatest resource, but my father gave us his time, and that was most important.”

Born April 13, 1944, Johnstone was the second of four children of Mary Jane and Quintin Johnstone in Wauwatosa. He attended Marquette University High School and graduated from Bellarmine College in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1966 with a degree in English. In 1968, he began working for Milwaukee area public relations advertising agencies Hoffman York and Bader Rutter.

He provided public relations services for new companies, various retailers, health care organizations and for major companies such as Walmart, McDonald’s, Verizon Wireless and Rockwell Automation.

He served as director in public relations operations for Andrews Mautner and Blue Horse agencies and was the executive vice president for the Falk Group Agency at their establishment in 2008.

In 2009, he was elected to the College of Fellows of the Public Relations Society of America, the international association of public relations professionals. Most recently, he became a National Fellow in the National Association of Public Relations.

In addition to his family, work and charitable efforts, he had a passion for reading, writing and gatecrashing.
Somehow, Johnstone managed to stand on the winner’s platform at the Kentucky Derby 19 times, sneak into a World Series locker room, and run onto a basketball court as the buzzer sounded at an NCAA championship.
According to his son, Joel, of Los Angeles, the two bonded early on with their love of sports.

“Baseball was an important thing to me and we enjoyed a lifelong tour of stadiums in the country, making it through 11 or 12 so far,” bragged Joel. “Dad wrote a book on his unusual hobby of gatecrashing, called, ‘In the Company of Champions.’ It is a memoir of his many years of gatecrashing. The book really captures his sense of adventure and I was fortunate enough to gatecrash the Super Bowl with him when I was 13. I was on the field for the opening kickoff and Sports Illustrated and other sporting news channels where there. I am an actor now and although my dad never acted a day in his life, he taught me everything I needed to know about acting through imagination and his adventurous spirit.”

As a photographer, daughter Shannon, of Cary, North Carolina, shared a love of art and poetry with her father, Stephen Johnstone had a passion for gatecrashing, an interest that led him to sneak into locker rooms, winners platforms and basketball courts during high profile sporting events. He’s pictured earlier this summer at Churchill Downs, the site of the Kentucky Derby. (Submitted photo courtesy the Johnstone family)often collaborating on photography projects.

“We worked on making self published books of poetry and photographs and I am so thankful that I have those,” she said. “Even on Saturday, the day before he died, he was eating a steak and asked me to change a line in a poem and order 10 more copies of the book. I am sorry he didn’t see it. I am very thankful to have had that and share creative expression with him and will be forever grateful that he instilled this in me.”

Close friend, MacCanon Brown, president of the MacCanon Brown Homeless Sanctuary, Inc., worked with Johnstone in homeless ministries for 22 years, previously with Repairers of the Breach, and most recently in MacCanon Brown Homeless Sanctuary.  

“A passion of his was the homeless people and the poor people and to bring awareness to their plight,” said Brown.

Eight years ago, Brown recalled the frigid winter day when CNN sent a reporter to the homeless mission after hearing about it from Johnstone.

“We went and met with her and the crew because they wanted to interview people in that killer cold who were living under bridges, shanties and tents,” she said. “We set out on a night so cold that your hand froze if you took it from your glove. We looked under bridges and in the woods in various places to find those who were living in those conditions. Steve was guiding them and talking with them, so helpful and undaunted in his commitment to help. I will never forget that.”

Johnstone had a close relationship with his sister, Sinsinawa Dominican Sr. Mary Howard Johnstone, who said she was touched by the extraordinary way he lived his faith through helping so many people through Catholic organizations. His sudden death has left her and the family in shock.

“Steve had this wonderful personality, love of literature, poetry, classical music and was a fan of the Packers and the Brewers,” she said. “He took me to the airport on Aug. 12 as I was going to a leadership conference. He stayed in Chicago to attend a Brewers/Cubs game and was feeling sick. He went to the urgent care center and went downhill quickly from there. We still don’t know what happened, but we know that there was bone cancer involved. This is a loss for the world, for the Milwaukee community and our family. He was a person of beauty.”
Johnstone would often remark to Sr. Mary Howard that fathering his children was his greatest accomplishment. He also has an “adopted” daughter, Kongsone, from Laos, who he considered his own.

“He welcomed her into his home and she considers him to be her father, too,” said Sr. Mary Howard. “This is very hard for her.”

By living his faith through integrity, reaching out to others and standing with the marginalized, Johnstone embraced all people. He had a great love of people, and was a fun-loving man. He volunteered for more than two decades with the Repairers of the Breach homeless shelter, raising funds and bringing attention to the organization. He also served on the boards of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center and the Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes.

“He was one of the most creative people,” said Sr. Mary Howard. “He also devoted his time in the past to Sojourner Truth House, which is now the Sojourner Family Peace Center. He used his PR ability to help a lot of non-profits and the Dominican Center. He volunteered with the Riverwest Food pantry. His adventurous spirit gave him the ability to pretend he was other people by gatecrashing. But on the eighth of this month, he finally got to the gate he didn’t have to crash. He was welcomed at the gate by the Communion of Saints.”