Dr Alan Ferguson Johnston was born on 23 December 1927 and died peacefully on 31 January 2014, surrounded by family.
Born in Calgary, Alan grew up during the Great Depression, the youngest of five children and son of a horseback doctor. Listening to his father’s stories of traveling in rural southwestern Alberta by horse to deliver medical care, Alan developed an early interest in medicine. After studies in pure science at Victoria College, Craigdarroch Castle, and then UBC, he completed postgraduate training in philosophy and psychology at the University of Alberta in 1951. He then traveled to London, where he worked in the Institute of Ophthalmology, Judd Street, under W.S. Duke-Elder, on “the problem of retrolental fibroplasias,” before studying medicine at University College London. He graduated with an MBBS in 1955. Following graduation, Dr Johnston worked as a house officer at St. George’s Hospital in London, where he had early exposure to psychiatry in the Tavistock Clinic. Dr Johnston later moved back to Canada where he practised as a GP in Vancouver. In 1962 he returned to specialty training in psychiatry at VGH and then the 4700-bed Riverview Hospital, where he lived on-site with his wife and two infant sons. He entered private practice in psychiatry, forming the Western Institute of Living, one of the first multidisciplinary psychiatric clinics in BC. Dr Johnston went on to have a long and fulfilling career practising adult psychiatry in Vancouver.
He and Tess were married in 1963 and four children arrived soon after. The purchase of a farm on Salt Spring Island was the start of many joyous family occasions. In retirement, Alan continued to pursue his interest in horticulture in the BC Fruit Testers Association, with his espalier work and his gardens. He and Tess traveled extensively, enjoying time together.
This devoted family man, husband, father, and friend was loved for many things, but especially because he was a wonderfully patient listener. His ability to help others arrive at new perspectives meant he was often relied upon in times of trouble or momentous decisions. Dr Johnston will be loved, always, and greatly missed by his family. He is survived by his wife, Tessa, four children, and ten grandchildren.
—Dean Johnston, MD
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