Robert Christian Johnston


Robert Christian Johnston, 74, of Portland and Great Cranberry Island, passed away on Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, at Gosnell Memorial Hospice House after a years-long struggle with lung cancer.

Chris was born in Beaver City, Neb., and grew up in Paxton, Ill. He attended Culver Military Academy in Indiana and earned a degree in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. During his time as an undergraduate, he left school and volunteered for the U.S. Army, serving his country with a tour of duty in the Vietnam War.

Upon his return, he resumed his studies at MIT and subsequently earned a graduate degree in business administration at Boston College. Chris met his wife, Vicky, in Cambridge, Mass., and they married in 1970 at her family’s home on Great Cranberry Island. They started their lives together in Newton, Mass., and then moved to Andover, Mass., where they raised their children and lived for 30 years.

Chris spent most of his professional life at Varian Associates in Lexington, Mass. Outside of work, he volunteered with various nonprofits in the Andover area, particularly Habitat for Humanity and Fidelity House, an organization that provides foster care and other services to the developmentally disabled community. Chris also lent his fine baritone to the church choir and served on the vestry at Christ Church, Andover, where he was proud to be involved in a major restoration of their organ. He was an avid sailor, as it allowed him to put his engineer’s brain to work, and over several decades Chris and his family explored the waters around Boston Harbor, up the coast of Maine and as far north as Nova Scotia.

In 2009, Chris and Vicky retired, splitting their time between Portland and Great Cranberry Island, where they devoted their energies to beloved community organizations over many years. Chris served faithfully on the boards of the Great Cranberry Island Historical Society, the Cranberry Island Realty Trust and the Cranberry Island Congregational Church. He relished telling stories of the island, and logged many happy hours giving entertaining tours to summer tourists while driving the island shuttle. He was also a frequent volunteer at the front desk of Cranberry House, where his kind, steady presence and distinctive laugh will be missed by so many.

Chris is survived by his children, Margaret (Meg) Johnston of Lawrence, Mass., and Alexander Johnston of Hoboken, N.J.; his daughter-in-law, Kathryn Valenta, and his granddaughter, Olivia Johnston of Hoboken.

To honor his memory, donations may be made to the Great Cranberry Island Historical Society (, the Cranberry Isles Realty Trust ( or Fidelity House CRC (

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