I have travelled back in time, as I read the touching tributes posted by the Hermonites about “Sir” , the Rev. John Johnston , a father figure to many and much, much more than their beloved Headmaster of Mount Hermon.
I write this as a grateful parent of two Hermonites , Rekha and Anish Mathew Samuel.
In the early 80s , Sam and I were working in the Anandaban Leprosy Hospital in a remote part of Nepal , when we had to make the painful decision of sending our kids to boarding school. Mount Hermon with Rev John Johnston came highly recommended and was the natural choice.
When we met the good looking Headmaster in his Office , we thought Robert Redford was shooting a film on the sets of Mount Hermon. Rev John Johnston had the same shy smile and the brightest blue eyes you could ever imagine, that twinkled at you with infinite kindness and understanding.
He was kind enough to take us around, after the formalities of admission were over and we got to see him interact with the little ones. The younger kids, were in the playground for a break . When they saw him, they all ran spontaneously to surround him, shouting and scrambling for his attention. Many flung themselves at him, as he stopped to ruffle their hair or straighten a tie . One thing was abundantly clear, he knew each child by name and it was obvious that they all loved him.
He knew exactly how miserable we were, each time we had to say goodbye to the kids. We were a mess. Sam would bawl unashamedly and I would try very hard not to, till I got into the car. I don’t think the Johnstons had ever seen a father cry, the way Sam did, every time he left his kids in boarding school. It earned him the nick name Waterworks . Val and John were ever so kind to us during those heartbreaking times.
Their reassuring wave and smile was the last memory we always took with us, as we drove back to Kathmandu. We were comforted to know , that our kids, though they were far from us , were in their care.
John and Val looked after our kids as boarders and followed their milestones and careers with pride , long after they left school. John never forgot any of his “kids” as he called them. He even took to Facebook to keep in touch with the Global Hermonites.
RIP dear John .
We celebrate your life
And glorious years
Of unstinting service.
You will always be remembered with gratitude, love and fond memories, as one of the most important and lasting influences in the lives of our kids.
Val, my dear, dear friend, our love and prayers are with you, as you say goodbye to John , your loving companion of many years. You both will always be an inspiration to many. God be with you .
All you kids , Michael , the son we never met and you gorgeous girls , Carol , Christine, Jenni Rose and Lyndy, your Dad was an extraordinary person and an exceptionally good human being. Someone we were blessed to know and call our friend.
Those we truly love
Never really Die
They live on
In the love we Share
The memories we treasure
And in the certainty that
We will meet again
At His feet
Where there will be
No more tears
And no more goodbyes .
No amount of tributes , posts or mails, can ever describe even an ounce of the man your Dad was .
He was a phenomenal Icon, who picked and cared for the kids entrusted to him and your Mum, who was an integral part of his life and work.
It’s the end of an era.
Unfortunately, they have broken the mold.
He will continue to remain a fond and loving memory in our hearts always.