2014-07-31 / Obituaries

Florine Mae Johnston

Florine Mae Johnston died on July 24, 2014 in Fresno. She was 93 years old.

Florine moved to Mariposa in 1943 from Eagle Rock with her parents Claude and Elsie Johnston. Florine was a young adult by then, a graduate of Occidental College in Los Angeles and already an accomplished violinist.

Her musical talents came from her parents, both gifted violinists. As a family, they played in orchestras in Pasadena. Once, when Florine was a young teenager, she gave a solo performance at the Hollywood Bowl.

Florine was an only child. She never married and had no children.

However, she was surrounded by children after school and in the evenings as they came by her home for music lessons. She taught many children and adults how to play the violin, the piano and how to sing during her 80 years as a music teacher. Both she and her mother gave music lessons out of their Mariposa home.

Florine’s last piano lesson was given to Wyatt Hewlett about five years ago.

Many people will remember her students’ fine recitals given at area churches including Mariposa Lutheran Church where Florine served as music director for many years. Her students played from memory, always, and Florine accompanied the young violinists and singers on the piano. She heard every note as she had the gift of perfect pitch.

Florine often said that the Johnstons brought music to Mariposa. Before they arrived in the Sierra foothill community, music was not widely taught.

There was much excitement as the Johnstons arrived in Mariposa on a hot August day in 1943, with Florine in the backseat with the large family dog and a horse trailer behind them. Residents came out to greet them as word had spread that musicians were moving to town.

“It’s the Johnstons,” she recalled hearing. “The Johnstons are here!”

Shortly after the family settled into temporary housing in town while their house was being built on Ben Hur Road, a young girl knocked on their door. She had been leading the singing at the Methodist Church by playing the melody with only her right hand.

She told Florine’s mother, Elsie, she wanted to learn how to play the piano with both hands. And so the Johnstons’ long history of teaching music in Mariposa began.

It wasn’t long before the principal of the high school enlisted Florine and Elsie to teach band as well as ballet classes.

This was all in addition to the mother and daughter duo traveling to give guest performances around the country with Florine on the violin and Elsie on the piano. They also gave performances in their own home where grand pianos sat back-to-back.

In Mariposa, Florine’s father Claude had put music aside and concentrated on his jewelry store business near the Mariposa Hotel. It was the first jewelry store in town and Florine often helped her father repair jewelry and string beads.

Florine was a perfectionist when it came to music and had a love for God and all creatures great and small. She will be greatly missed by her good friends Doris Grekel of Mariposa and Jeff and Teresa Douglass of Visalia.

Her interment was private.

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I took private piano lessons

I took private piano lessons from Ms. Johnston in the early 80s when I was in high school. I competed in several competitions in Northern California and did quite well because of her guidance. I'm now a working musician in NYC. I owe a great part of my career to Florine and her mother Elsie Mae. Thank you so very much.

Hi Elaine, some sad news but

Hi Elaine, some sad news but thought you'd appreciate reading this. She was a wonderful person and we were very lucky to have her in our lives. Also, my fried Darrel died on June 12. Love, Mom

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