July 17, 1985 - February 22, 2021
Robert Johnston may have been born in California, but the Black Hills is where he called home and where he felt comfortable. As a young boy, he always had a sense for being outdoors, wondering into the mountains that was his playground. He would spend countless hours hiking, finding snakes, bringing home turtles, fish, and spiders. His mom was always surprised with what she would find coming home. Whenever he needed to take a breath or life was stressful for him, he would always go into the mountains to find himself.
Rj didn’t have the easiest childhood, he was faced with many challenges and hardships, but he always managed to overcome them and never let it stop him. Any obstacle Rj went up against he did with all his heart. He loved being active and outdoors. Soccer, football, baseball, wrestling, weightlifting, hunting, calving season, and building fences were a few of the many activities he participated in.
As a teen he was diagnosed with epilepsy and had to endure doctor appointments, spending all day in offices, tests and a variety of other difficulties that caused him to miss out on school events. However, he didn’t let that stop him. He still participated in everything life had to give him. No challenge of life would stop him from having and enjoying the millstones of becoming an adult. Learning to drive and getting your license. Moving out of your hometown to another state to attend college. Getting your heart broken. Making new friends. And taking on a daring and new adventure.
Growing up he took responsibility very seriously, working as a line cook at a restaurant with his mom. Helping to buy a half cow, deer, or ostrich to provide for his family after his dad stepped out. Growing up quickly, made him the man he is today. A man who spoke few words, who always tried to do the right thing no matter what, made sure that the people who were important to him knew it and were always on his mind.
Rj always made friends wherever he went. Anyone who met him would say he always said hello and would talk to you like been friends for years. Attending college at Chardon state, he befriended a few guys who worked in the cafeteria. Where he started working the line. As a kid, Rj always had a love for food, but it was working in the college cafeteria that love turned into a passion. One he followed to Arizona, where he attended Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Scottsdale. It was one of his biggest accomplishments of his early twenties, after graduating he landed a job working at the Ritz Carlton. A place he had dreamed of working at since finding a love for cooking.
As passions and dreams go, they change as we grow older and mature. Returning home to the Black Hills to reevaluate his life, an opportunity presented itself. Working as Sous Chef for a prestigious hunting lodge in Yellowstone. He was responsible for teaching the newcomers in the kitchen basic skills. He was kind man, with a great sense of humor who shared stories from his life with them.
Many times, he would call home excited about the black bear that came waking through camp that morning, retelling of how large and how intense it was, or hearing the elk’s bugle. While work was demanding, he did take time to enjoy the setting he was in. He made many trips to the geysers and hot pools. Returning to the love of nature he found in his childhood.
After a few seasons had passed, Rj felt it was time to move on and that he needed a change. This time, Rj shifted out of his comfort zone and started working at the VA helping veterans and wounded warriors. Working with veterans gave Rj a better perspective of getting help when you need it. In the last year he was reaching out to those he cared about who he had lost contact with. It showed his strength of his character, to move past his flaws. He was good man. The world might not know it yet, but it’s an emptier place with RJ gone.
The love and support for the family he leaves behind is unimaginable. His mom, Rebecca; sister, Maggie and daughters Natalie, Nicole and Roxan and her son, Alexander.