Virginia Johnston

Virginia Johnston

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JOHNSTON Virginia Waters Johnston, 64, retired educator and author of children's books, died on June 2, 2010 from multiple myeloma cancer. Ginny was born in Salem, NJ and grew up in Aiken, South Carolina graduating from Aiken High class of 1964. She moved to Atlanta attending Emory University, University of Georgia and Georgia State University, completing both Master and Specialist degrees in Elementary Education by 1973. Ginny taught in the Life Sciences Department of Fernbank Science Center for over 30 years before her retirement in 2000. She was selected as Fernbank's Teacher of the Year in 1997 and then chosen as the Elementary Teacher of the Year for DeKalb County School System in 1998. Teaching was always her first love and, in retirement, she taught Family Literacy for the Literacy Volunteers of America. In 1984 Ginny was inducted into Delta Kappa Gamma, an international honor society for women educators. With her background in natural history and her ability to manage people, Ginny was asked to spearhead the development in the early 1990's of Fernbank Museum's original permanent exhibit, A Walk Through Time in Georgia. She and her team handled it from concept through installation. The waterfall in the Cumberland Plateau of that exhibit honored her deceased father, Dewey Elton Waters. In the mid 1980's, Ginny and her best friend, Judy Cutchins, began writing nonfiction books for young readers. The two authors were twice honored as Georgia Authors of the Year for Juvenile Literature. The first time in 1991 was for Slippery Babies and again in 2001 for Giant Predators of the Ancient Seas. In addition to these books for middle school readers, the co-authors wrote ten other natural history books. Most of them were recognized as Outstanding Science Trade books by the National Science Teachers Association. Several titles received other awards from ALA Booklist, Parenting Magazine, Boston Globe, School Library Journal, or The Reading Teacher. Of the books excerpted in books and magazines, the most widely read was Andy Bear, which was in the elementary reading textbooks throughout metro Atlanta and nationwide. This fantastic story related the experiences of Constance Noble, the Atlanta zookeeper who hand-raised a polar bear cub born at Zoo Atlanta. The tiny cub was named Andrew Nicholas, Andrew for then Mayor Andrew Young and Nicholas because he was born on Christmas Day. Many of the other books featured animals or research done at Zoo Atlanta: Scoots the Bog Turtle; Scaly Babies: Baby Reptiles Growing Up; Slippery Babies: Baby Frogs, Toads and Salamanders; and Windows on Wildlife. Their first book, Are Those Animals Real?, depicted how museums created exhibits of mounted animals in natural settings. Visitors at Fernbank Science Center frequently asked if the animals were "real" in these exhibits and the authors discovered there were no books for younger readers that answered the question: how do museums made such lifelike dioramas? The co-authors were honored by being selected as the 2002 Writers of the Year by the Atlanta chapter of the National League of American Pen Women. The title winning this award was Giant Predators of the Ancient Seas, the second in a series about fossil evidence of life in prehistoric Georgia. In 2004, Ginny was accepted into membership of this organization which recognizes and supports the enhancement of arts, letters and music achievements of women. She served as Pen Women's newsletter editor in 2005 and as auditor in 2006 and 2007. Ginny was active in her church, University Heights United Methodist, where she played with the hand bell choir. A Celebration of Life memorial service will be held at the church, 1267 Balsam Drive, Decatur, GA 30033 on 13 June 2010 at 3pm with Reverend DonnAnn Weber officiating. In lieu of flowers, those wishing to may make contributions to the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, 383 Main Avenue, Norwalk, CT 06851 or Emory Winship Cancer Institute, Multiple Myeloma Fund, 1762 Clifton Road, Suite 1400, Atlanta, GA 30322 or the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) at www.TheMMRF.org and/or by mail to MMRF, 383 Main Avenue 5th Floor, Norwalk, CT 06851. The family wishes to recognize and thank the dedicated team of doctors and nurses and other staff members at Emory Winship Cancer Institute for their kindness and perseverance-Dr. Sagar Lonial and his myeloma team, the nurses of the Ambulatory Center, and the Clinical Trial staff. Ginny is survived by her brother and his wife, Douglas and Herminia Waters of Denver, CO; two nephews and their wives, Alex and Diane Waters of Denver, CO, and Mark and Amelia Waters of Ft Lauderdale, FL and three great nephews, Alexander, Zor and Max and by her stepfather, Ray Romero of New Iberia, LA. A. S. Turner & Sons.
Published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on June 5, 2010
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