In Memory of




Obituary for Jo Kirkland Johnston

Jo Kirkland Johnston passed away peacefully in her home, surrounded by her family at the age of 92, on Wednesday, December 13, 2023 in Birmingham, Alabama. Born on May 19, 1931, in Ozark, Alabama, Jo was a beloved wife for seventy-five years to the love of her life, Dr. Furnie Wesley Johnston. She was a wonderful and loving wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, sister, aunt, and friend to many. Her family affectionately referred to her as "Mimi" and friends often called her "the Queen" as she was the epitome of a true Southern lady. She was strong in her faith and loved her family to the fullest.

Jo was preceded in death by her husband, Dr. Furnie Wesley Johnston, Jr., a son, James Kirkland Johnston, a grandson, Colbert Wesley Clark, as well as her parents, Admiral Dewey Kirkland and Tannie Lucille Kirkland. Jo is survived by her children, George David Johnston (Maurine), Carole Louise Johnston, Linda Johnston Thompson (Ken, Sr.) and Laura Johnston Etheredge (David). Grandchildren, John Thomas Hanes, Julianne Johnston Ferber (Scott), James Andrew Hanes (Amber) Furnie Wesley Johnston, III, John Kenneth Thompson, Jr. (Suzanne), Laura Lee Thompson, Madison Elizabeth Clark, and Abigail Kirkland Clark, step-granddaughters Rachel Madison Etheredge (Zac) and Mary Katherine Etheredge. She is a great grandmother to Libby Ryan Ferber. She is also survived by her sisters Mary Barton, of Tuscaloosa and Martha, “Snookie” McLendon, of Ozark. Her many nieces, nephews, and family members along with her caregivers will remember her lovingly.

Jo graduated from Bob Jones University in South Carolina in 1948 and attended Birmingham Southern College where she studied piano and graduated with several honors for musical excellence.

Born in 1931, Jo Johnston grew up in Ozark, Alabama where her father, A.D, Kirkland, ran a pharmacy in downtown Ozark. She studied classical music over her career composed over 100 pieces of music. Three notable compositions are the Army branch anthems: "Above the Best," written for the Army Aviation Branch; "Essayons," written fort the Army Corps of Engineers; and "Dragon Soldiers," written for the Army Chemical Corps.

Jo's love for music encompassed more than just the military. She collaborated with her daughter, Linda Thompson, to write three musicals together. She founded Elenjay Publishing and served as president of Apache Records. She also wrote a song for the marriage of the Prince of Monaco, which made it to the Billboard top 100 for several weeks.

Johnston has received many awards and honors over the course of her career. In 1988, she was presented with the U.S. Army's Outstanding Civilian Service Award which was the second-highest civilian award bestowed by the Army. She also received the Katharine Wright Award, the Commander's Award for Public Service, and the Order of St. Michael (Silver) Award. She was honored to have been selected to be featured in the Dale County Music and Theater Mural, the second mural commissioned by the Ozark Mural program, alongside other talented individuals from Dale County who have excelled in music and/or theater.

Jo will be remembered for her beautiful smile and generous heart. She was a woman of passion, strong character, and loyalty. She loved to entertain others by sitting at the piano and making up songs about them. Her grandchildren delighted in this and have many fond memories of this tradition. She was a true blessing and light to others.

Jo's favorite Bible verse is from the book of Isaiah, "But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." She would quote this Bible verse frequently throughout her life and share it with others when they would go through trials.

A Celebration of life will be held in the sanctuary at First United Methodist Church in Dothan, Alabama at 2:00 pm on Sunday, December 17, 2023 with Bishop Lawson Bryan officiating. The family respectfully requests donations be made to: First United Methodist Church, Youth Music Program, 1380 W. Main Street, Dothan, AL 36301.