In Memory

Peter Johnston

Peter Johnston

Pete Johnston died March 19, 1966 in a sky diving accident at the Air Force Academy

Remembering Peter Johnston and His Family


Who I Am

My name is Dan Keefe. I grew up in Hyde Park, graduating from St. X. high school in 1969. So what is my connection to Peter Johnston, Woodward High School class of 1962?  Here is the story.


Children’s Corner

I went to grade school on Erie Avenue, and my family lived on Kendall, right next to Withrow High School.  On Hyde Park Square, Edwards Road, was a toy store, Children’s Corner.  Some of you Woodward folks might remember it. Perhaps you bought something there for a younger sibling. Their logo was two red elephants on white paper, one behind the other, with the trunk of the second elephant entwined in the tail of the lead elephant.  


The proprietors were Marjorie Manning (who, among other things, was a Charter Committee candidate for Cincinnati City Council in I believe 1961 or 1963) and Lanni Johnston.  Lanni ran the store in Hyde Park, and I think Marj was more involved with the location in the then new TriCounty Shopping Center.


Being a 10-year old interested in model cars, trains and some of the other toys she had, I would stop in on my way home from school.  Stop in a lot.  I got to be chummy with Lanni, so much so that I starting working there on Saturdays (not that she was looking to hire a ten year old; I just showed up to work and she would let me; would pay/give me $3.50 at the end of the day on Saturdays). I thought I was a hot shot.  


Lanni had a booming laugh, always a lot of fun. Her husband, John Johnston, was a teacher (perhaps at the old Ohio College of Applied Science).  And of course there was Peter.


The First Tragedy

I think it was in the fall of 1961.  John died suddenly of a heart attack.  What a shock to Lanni and Peter.  I still have the thank you card Lanni sent in appreciation of my expression of sympathy.



I really did not know Pete much. He was a high school kid; I was in grade school.  My first real remembrance of him was when his mom took me to some sort of show at Woodward. Perhaps a variety show, similar to the then Withrow Minstrels.  I remember sitting in your theater thinking this was something else. It was new, big, much nicer than the Withrow theater.  And I remember Pete wanting to go to the Air Force Academy.


My father was a local judge, and I am guessing he at least advised Lanni and Peter on that part of the Air Force application process that required a recommendation from a member of Congress.  I am guessing too it was this reason that Lanni dragged poor Peter to our house once when he was home so he could visit us. I remember him sitting in our living room, half asleep either from being out with some of his Woodward buddies the night before or from being up all night flying home from Colorado Springs.  But he was a good sport indulging his mom’s wish to visit the Keefes.


The Second Tragedy

It was 1966 and I was now a high school freshman. I used to sleep with my RCA transistor radio under my pillow, listening to WSAI.  I guess I woke up in the middle of the night and the news was on. There was a story about a local man who had died in a parachuting accident at the Air Force Academy.  Dear God, please, not Peter. But it was.  March 19, 1966.


My oldest brother drove me to Lanni’s home (being an empty nester with Peter at Air Force, Lanni moved from her Kennedy Heights house to a converted house/now apartments on Martin Drive, with a view of the river).  What an awful time. I don’t think I’ve seen someone so sad.


Lives Not Forgotten

Lanni had some joy after her losses. She married George Brengel and enjoyed many happy years with him and his family. She and George were at my wedding in 1979, and she died in 2000 at the age of 91.  What a lady and friend.


I write this in hopes that some of your classmates might think of Peter, perhaps even of Lanni if they had known her.  Peter was Lanni’s only child, so there are no more Johnstons. I fear Lanni and Peter will be forgotten, and that’d be a shame. They were good folks.  I hope this note prompts some good thoughts of them by members of Woodward’s Class of 1962.




Dan Keefe


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01/25/11 05:36 PM #1    

Sandra Jaffa

 I have never forgotten Peter. He was a remarkable man and it shown through at a very young age. I remember hearing about the accident in denial and disbelief. Pete was a natural born leader and someone we looked up to. I think many of us felt he was destined to be in politics. So coincidentally, I was just thinking of him the other day.  He was unique and memorable.

07/06/11 08:31 PM #2    

Mark Abrams (Class Of 65)

Hi.  My name is Mark Abrams, WHS Class of '65.  Bob Jacobs & I traded guest memberships on our respective class web sites.  I was a freshman - wow, too much comes back way too fast.  I was on the track team then, a shot putter.  Pete Johnston was also a shot putter.  We'd work out together.  He was the first "older person" at Woodward that would talk with me - the distance between the years seemed so much more significant then ... at least that's what it felt like.  

Pete would coach me on shot put technique.  Due in large part to his help (and patience)  my distance really improved over the course of that season.  I really admired him.  In part, because of Pete's interest in going to the Air Force Academy, I developed a desire to go there, as well.  That didn't happen. 

I recall the sinking feeling and sadness at hearing that Pete died in a parachute jump.  I have a vague recollection of hearing that it was his 111th jump.  I also recall feeling disappointed because, even though our paths may never have crossed again, that could no longer even happen. 

Thanks, Pete, for your help and your friendship and your positive role model. 

10/12/12 01:19 AM #3    

Ronald F. Helm

The saying the good die young was never more true then in the case of Pete's death in the sky diving accident while at the Air Force Academy. Pete was a great friend and classmate and I remember telling my mother that his death couldn't have been, he had so much to give to this world. It just wasn't right.

I also remember when Pete took a hard hit during a football game our senior year. They took him off the field and Doc Collins was checking him out, asking questions like how many fingers do you see and Pete very agitated, said "Doc, come on I've got to get back in the game, we've got to beat Wyoming" Doc replied that's it for you tonight Pete. That's because we had played Wyoming ( and won) the week before. Pete had literally been knocked into last week !

Ron Helm




03/06/15 11:31 AM #4    

Bob Jacobs


Below is the link to an excerpt from book part of which was dedicated to Pete Johnston. Click on Combat Control Team. Also a link to an article from WIngs of Blue.




03/07/15 06:32 PM #5    

Marsha Goldsmith (Zahler)

Pete Johnston was an incredible young man, very charismatic. So many of us wanted to be his friend. What was so tragic about hearing the awful news of March 19, 1966 was that Pete's life held so much promise of what he would become. I can picture him in the halls of Woodward with his ready smile and cheerful hello. Pete had every gift but length of years. He will not be forgotten.

03/08/15 03:48 PM #6    

Shirley Connett (Sarley)

I was a secretary at GE in 1966 and I remember someone had brought in a newsaper with the article about Pete's accident. I read it and then re-read it thinking it couldn't be "our Pete", but it was.  I went to my desk and cried.  It has always made me so sad that Pete's life was cut short. He was such a awesome person, someone who I had always expected to be president someday. I've always wondered how he would/good have changed the world. He won't be forgotten! RIP  Shirley Connett Sarley

03/12/15 01:19 PM #7    

Robert Moser

I first crossed paths with Pete during the Lyons to Shroder era. We both lived In what's was known as Woodford Terrace about a block apart. From day-one I noted that Pete was all business, however, had that unique ability to talk to and appreciate all people. He knew where he wanted to go, but always accepted graciously those who focused on other things. For me, I was more interested in cars than algebra, but I always thought Pete was a friend.  His parents were unique and provided that learning environment people talk about, but few really achieve. I remember calling Pete once about a homework assignment and his Mom answered the phone noting that Pete was studying and he would call me back a specific time assuming his homework was complete. She was an excellent gate guard. Once at Woodward for High School, Pete's days were long as he assumed civic roles at the school as well a academic and athletic. There were a few times when he would ride to school with Gil Schultz, and a couple of others of us.  We all felt that Pete genuinely cared about each of us.  There were times when Pete would drive by our house and my Dad was in the yard  Pete would honk and spend a couple of minutes chatting with Dad.  Again, he genuinely cared.  

To review the many accomplishments Pete enjoyed is not necessary. We knew him and that is the greatest testimony to Pete - just think and remember.  Having served 31 years in the Navy and enjoyed many commands, I can honestly say, "I would be honored to serve with Pete or serve for him." He was the epitome of Honor, Courage and Commitment.  Pete only made one choice which I question.  He chose Colorado Springs over Annapolis. We could have been shipmates.  Lois and I will always remember Pete as you will also




12/03/15 02:51 PM #8    

Bob Jacobs

From Mike Shore  

Pictures taken on his visit to the Air Force Academy.

The first picture is of the plaque with Pete’s name.  The second picture is a close-up of the area on the plaque showing his name.  There are 6 of these plaques mounted on a memorial wall outside the Catholic chapel at the Academy.  The whole complex is huge and quite impressive.



08/19/16 01:08 PM #9    

Terry Adams

I got to know Pete well when he was quarterback and I was left halfback on the Schroder football team in 1959.  Bob Marshall was fullback, and Stan Matthews was the right halfback.  Dave Schneider was center, Steve Mc Collum tackle.  I'm trying to remember the other guys:  Dave McKnight? Ronnie Tolburt?  Ron Engles?  Harrison Simms?  Alan Burger?  Larry Spreckelmeyer? - other guys from the P-Ridge gang?  Also Coaches  Gino Rossi, 'Bear' Campbell.  We were a good team, and Pete was a excellent leader.  I went with Pete and his dad to several UC football games, trying to learn more possible plays. He showed up one day with a big bruise on his chest and it turned out he had come down hard on his dogtags (bent them) while doing rapid pushups in his daily workout at home.  He was brilliant and dedicated in everything, with all As in school.  I'm posting this now because last night I dreamed of him.  He was approaching me in the WHS auditorium with his grand smile, as usual, and I wanted to salute him, but I couldn't move my arm (turns out my cat was sleeping on it), so he came over and gave me a little kiss on my forehead - perfect.

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