Johnston family turns grief to hope with help from Frogtown Curling

Billy Johnston, his daughters Amanda and Emily, his grandchildren Rowan and Isla, family friend Travis Cummings, and Frogtown Curling’s winning bidder, Bruce Alexander, recently presented a $7,000 check to 360 Communities Lewis House staff.

Barbara Johnston smiled — all the time. It was simply her nature. According to her husband, Billy, she put everyone else’s concerns ahead of her own. Her family was her priority, especially her grandchildren.

Barbara fell sick early on in the pandemic. An errant negative COVID test and subsequent medical misdiagnoses followed. She passed away in an ambulance in the driveway of their home. It was a sudden and devastating loss for Billy, their children, grandchildren, and everyone who knew and loved her.

Barbara was a talented knitter, winning state and county fair contests. She also had a charitable heart. With fellow knitters, she would coordinate donations of their creations to 360 Communities’ Lewis House to support residents.

“She cared about people,” says Billy, “She had a soft spot for those who were victims of injustice, in particular children.” In addition to supporting the Lewis House, she sent donations to support families being separated at the border.

The loss has been hard for Billy. He had a difficult time opening sympathy cards after she passed away. And today, while her memory brings joy, there are also tears. Billy Johnston is an avid curler and belongs to the Frogtown Curling Club. This St. Paul club is a fun group that loves to give back to the community. They recently held a fundraiser for our Lewis House shelter in honor of Barbara. Billy had the idea to auction off an original t-shirt from the club’s founding 11 years ago. He thought maybe he could get $200 for the cause.

The bids flew past the $200 level quickly. When all was said and done, fellow curler Bruce Alexander’s winning bid was $2,500! Billy says he was “floored” by the outpouring of support. Then the other bidders began to donate their “losing” bids. All counted, they had raised $7,000 for Lewis House! “The room was filled with emotion and there were many teary eyes,” says Billy.

Billy, his family, and Bruce Alexander visited Lewis House on the second anniversary of Barbara’s passing to deliver the donation on behalf of Frogtown Curling. Inspired by the curling event, Billy was able to reopen the sympathy cards he received from friends and family after Barbara died. There were memorial gifts inside totaling more than $1,000, and Billy decided to donate those to Lewis House as well.

In honoring Barbara in this way, the Johnston family and the Frogtown Curling community have taken a tragedy and inspired hope. Thank you!

Barbara and family

Barbara Johnston with her daughters Amanda and Jennifer, grandchildren Amelia, Rowan, Maya, Isla, and Rhiannon, and son-in-law Matt.