Born in Sydenham Township, Ontario in 1930, James Keith Johnson died unexpectedly from complications of small vessel ischemic brain disease on April 13, 2018. The son of George Milford Johnson & Mary Louise Johnson (nee Fettes), both of Sydenham Township, he was predeceased by his sister Marjorie Woodhouse and his brother Tom.
Keith was the partner, husband and best friend of Dr. Jill Vickers for 49 years; loving father of Mary and Elizabeth “Bobby” Johnson; and Michael H Vickers (Kathryn Gallacher) and Matthew Johnson (Megan Gillis); and affectionate ‘Grampa’ of Alec, Calum, Leo and Miles. He is also survived by his sister-in-law, Marjorie, nieces Nancy (Gashaw Abebe) and Marilyn Plaumann (Heinz), and nephews, Russell and David Johnson (Teresa); nephew Peter Woodhouse (Brenda), and nieces, Kathryn Taylor (Rick), Barbara Fawcett (Rick) and Margaret Hamilton (Bob).
Keith studied history at the University of Toronto, graduating from Victoria College with the Class of 5T3. He then travelled in Europe and England and returned to Canada to work at the CBC in Toronto during the ‘golden age’ of Canadian television. In 1961 he began working for the Public Archives of Canada in Ottawa, first as an Archivist, then as Head of the Publications Section, Manuscript Division.
In 1968, Keith began teaching history full-time at Ottawa’s St. Patrick’s College, where he met Jill. He then taught for the rest of his career in Carleton University’s Department of History, specializing in Upper Canadian history and rising to full Professor, where he was a demanding but kind supervisor to many MA and PhD students. Retiring from teaching in 1995 as Emeritus Professor, he continued his research and writing right up until the day he died.
Keith Johnson was honoured with many academic awards and distinctions, including: the Ontario Historical Society’s Cruikshank Medal for Historical Writing (1967), the Canadian Silver Jubilee Medal (1977), the Ontario Historical Society’s Cruikshank Gold Medal for Outstanding Service in the Cause of History in Ontario (1989) and the Canadian Historical Association’s Regional History Certificate of Merit (1994). His most significant contributions to Canadian history include: the Canadian Directory of Parliament, 1867-1967 (1968), Affectionately Yours: The Letters of Sir John A. Macdonald and his Family, 1842-1891 (1969) and the Sir John A Macdonald entry in the Canadian Encyclopedia (1985), Becoming Prominent: Regional Leadership in Upper Canada, 1791-1841 (1989) and In Duty Bound: Men, Women and the State in Upper Canada, 1783-1841 (2014).
Keith was known for his wry humour - infecting his sons with a love of the surrealistic comedy of Monty Python and the Marx Brothers - and for his gentleness, kindness, generosity and humility. He was an enthusiastic supporter of all things Canadian, and in particular, a loyal supporter of the Stratford and Shaw Festivals (which he attended faithfully every year), Canadian literature, and television programmes (notably Slings and Arrows and Murdoch Mysteries), a longtime Toronto Argonauts fan, and an ardent and knowledgeable classical music lover. His daily pleasures included cryptic crossword puzzles, Jeopardy and sharing the quiet humour of the Brit-coms and mysteries with Jill. In retirement, he and Jill became intrepid adventurers, traveling first to the US, Europe and the Baltic, and then to South America, including: Ecuador, Peru, the Amazon, Argentina, Antarctica, Patagonia and Chile.
Several people have told me that unfortunately they have tried to post messages on this website but it does not seem to be working properly. However, if you would like to have your messages of condolence or memories of Keith posted, please email them to the address below, and I will post them for you: [email protected]