By Sabina Mollot
Original Stuy Town resident and World War II veteran William Johnston, or John-John, as he is affectionately called, celebrated his 101st birthday on Wednesday, December 2 with family and friends at the VA St. Albans Community Living Center.
Johnston, who had moved into an apartment on East 14th Street with his wife Helen in 1947, remained there for 60 years. In 2007, his family moved him into St. Albans where he still lives.
His birthday party was attended by friends and neighbors, VA staff and his brother, a nephew and his wife and nieces.
Johnston, who was born in Scotland, and Helen, who died five years ago on Thanksgiving Day, lived in Stuy Town after Johnston was honorably discharged from the Army. He’d served from 1943-1946 at the Ft. Hamilton Army Base in Brooklyn, working as a payroll clerk. He later worked for many years at Manufacturers Hanover Trust, now known as The Bank of New York. Johnston went on to become a volunteer at VA’s Manhattan campus and even received a “Volunteer of the Year Award” during that time. At his birthday party, it was mentioned by his nephew, Bill Dolan, that there wasn’t anything he would not do for his fellow comrades.
At the event, Johnston, who loves lollipops and asks for them throughout the day, received a bag with 250 lollipops as one of his birthday presents. A VA staffer noted that he has also been known in the past to ask for a cigar and a beer too.
Tom Smith, Chief Recreation Therapy Service, presented Johnston with a Certificate of Appreciation, in honor of his special day and for his years of service during World War II.
Though he now suffers from Alzheimer’s and there’s a lot he doesn’t remember, Dolan said he otherwise seems to be doing well at his advanced age.
“He’s a good old boy. There’s no question about it, to have survived that long,” said Dolan. “He had a wonderful time (at his party.) He’s doing okay.”
Additionally, Johnston wasn’t the only member of his family to have lived in Stuyvesant Town. Dolan, who lives in Maryland, and married into Johnston’s family, said his wife Missy’s (Johnston’s niece) mother also lived in the community. Like her sister Helen, she also died on Thanksgiving in 1990.