Rick was born Richard Frederick Johnston to loving parents Edward and Susan (nee Hotz) on June 21, 1935, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He died Sept. 15, 2021, in Cave Creek, Arizona, at 86 years, an age at which he predicted he would make his journey to his savior, Jesus Christ. He was once a husband, to Mary Jane Cheeseman, twice a father, to Jill Catherine Mary and Jennifer Lynn Elizabeth, twice a grandfather, to Thaddeus Jay and Alaina Mary Lovell.
Rick was a veteran of the U.S. Navy, with the rate of Signalman, serving from 1953 until 1957 aboard the USS Charles P. Cecil, a Gearing-class destroyer that arrived at her homeport of San Diego, California, on Nov. 20, 1945. Rick was fond of attending reunions with his shipmates in San Diego, where they would reconnect and recount memories of traveling to various ports throughout Europe. During his time in the Navy, Cuba held a certain romantic appeal for Rick; the country’s colorful architecture and residents and tropical attractions stuck with him. He also liked to point out that the women in Spain, where his ship frequently ported, were “the most beautiful in the world.” Rick inspired his brothers, Raymond and Jimmy, to follow suit with Navy careers. All three brothers have the same anchor tattoo on their forearms.
Rick served with the Philadelphia Police Department, the nation’s fourth-largest, from 1958 until 1980, starting his career in the 3rd District, which includes West Philadelphia, most of Center City, and parts of North Philadelphia. His brother Ray worked in the same building, in the 4th District. After he retired from the department, from 1982 to 2000, he served as an officer for the School District of Philadelphia. He would often serve during school events and dances, and several times, he phoned/called his daughters to tell them about which xcgguest was invited to provide the musical entertainment.
Rick devoted part of his time in retirement to serve as a Fourth Degree member of the Knights of Columbus, where he acted as an honor guard, standing in respect at the funerals of members or during adoration of the Eucharist. In this role, he embodied the idea that one can be a faithful Catholic and also a faithful citizen. He embraced the order’s fourth principle of patriotism, among the men who led efforts to reach out to veterans and active military members.
Rick spent quite a bit of his free time at Philadelphia Park, watching horses race, a favorite pastime that began in his teenage years when he accompanied his father to the park. Going to “the track,” as he called it, was just for fun, not rooted in gambling, as he had a fondness for the beauty and strength of horses. He would walk to the stables to see the horses being prepared to run before the start of the race. He would place a bet on a horse if its name included Jill or Jenny and would call his daughters to say so, and most likely give one or both his winnings if the horse won.
Rick had an unending affinity for Elvis, even believing he himself resembled The King. The first song Jill learned to play on the organ was “Love Me Tender,” making her dad proud. He loved Billy Wilder’s “Some Like It Hot,” and he preferred to watch Turner Classic Movies. He adored musicals, including “Gypsy,” “The Producers” and “Chicago.” Rick and Mary Jane saw “Phantom of the Opera” and “Cats,” among others, at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia. One special show they saw was “Camelot” in Valley Forge, with Rock Hudson starring. Mosts girls. Each time Frenchy’s famous line -- “The only man a girl can depend on is her daddy” -- came on, Rick would say: “Don’t forget that.”
Rick took his family on summer vacations every year, to the Jersey Shore, to New York City, to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, and various destinations along the East Coast. He made sure his daughters had the opportunity to travel to Europe when they both graduated from college.
He signed every letter to his girls with the lines “All my love always,” and he meant it. He provided endlessly for them both. He checked in often on Jenny’s animals through the years --Trix, Sailor, Tiger Lily, and Dahlia. He spent his final days in Cave Creek, Arizona, getting to know his grandchildren, which was his final priority.
Rick was always on time, always dressed to the nines, carried a hair comb in his back pocket, believed in Jesus, believed in kindness and in love.
Rick was preceded in death by his parents, sister Josie (married to Frank) brother Ray (married to Cass), and a brother, Eddie, who died at 2 and is buried with his mother. He is survived by his daughters, his grandchildren, his brother Jim and his nieces and nephews who he loved so dearly, Susan, Lisa, Jimmy, Raymond, Brian, Kate, and Sarah.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Pennsylvania SPCA or any animal shelter or organization of your choosing.
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