Johnston leaves a legacy

November 16, 2008|By DAVE MCMILLION

o Obituary

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Ray Johnston is gone, but his work and his influence live on.

Johnston, designer of The Woods Resort who was praised for his positive influence on the Eastern Panhandle, had many passions, including Shepherd University.

Johnston, 74, died Friday at City Hospital in Martinsburg.

Ed Herendeen said he remembered going to Johnston in 1991 when he had the idea for creating the Contemporary American Theater Festival at Shepherd.

Johnston introduced Herendeen to other movers and shakers in the community who could help Herendeen build his festival dream.

Johnston also contributed financially to the theater festival, and Herendeen recalled how exciting it was to talk to Johnston with his "bold, daring and innovative ideas."


"He could see where the Eastern Panhandle was headed," Herendeen said Sunday.

The Contemporary American Theater Festival has steadily grown in terms of its budget and audience, and now has an impressive list of supporters and nationally respected talent.

A little more than a year ago, Johnston donated $300,000 to establish a chair position in Shepherd's history department, the first time a private person had created such an endowment, according to his friends and Shepherd officials.

The instructor who receives the position will have about $15,000 a year in interest from Johnston's endowment for his or her teaching program, said Andy Michael, Johnston's business partner who operated The Woods Resort off W.Va. 9 between Hedgesville and Berkeley Springs, W.Va., with Johnston and his family.

"He believed in education and he believed in Shepherd," Michael said of Johnston.

Johnston had a long and distinguished career, from serving as a representative in the Minnesota State Legislature to serving on a number of local boards and with numerous associations.

Johnston had been president of the Martinsburg/Berkeley County Chamber of Commerce, Eastern Panhandle Home Builder's Association, Eastern Gateway Travel Council, Martinsburg/Berkeley County Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Home Builders Association of West Virginia, among other accomplishments.

The Woods is a 1,200-home community with two 18-hole golf courses.

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