Charles Frederick Johnston

May 14, 1933 ~ December 18, 2019 (age 86)


Charles Frederick Johnston, 86, of Marshall died courageously after being stricken by heart attack, on Wednesday, December 18, 2019 in Kalamazoo, Michigan at Bronson Methodist Hospital.  

Charles was born on Mother’s Day, May 14, 1933 in Watertown, New York to James Frederick and Phyllis Victoria (Rankin) Johnston.  He attended Watertown High School where he met Dona Hampton during their senior year. They both graduated in 1951.  Charles served honorably as a medic in the United States Army. Benefiting from the GI Bill, he went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in economics from St. Lawrence University, Canton, NY.   On September 10, 1955 he married his high school sweet heart, Dona Lee Hampton, RN, at Asbury Methodist Church, in Watertown. 

Charles began his career in the insurance industry in 1959 at the Watertown Agricultural Insurance Company. He and Dona moved to Hastings, Michigan in 1965 where he continued his career by taking a position with Hastings Mutual Insurance Company. He was employed with HMIC for 33 years. At his retirement, in 1998, he had held the position of company president for many years.   He oversaw significant financial growth and expansion of HMIC.  Accomplished and recognized in his industry, Charles, held the position of president of the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies. Charles was a board member of Hastings City Bank and Pennock Hospital.  He was a member of the Hastings Rotary Club, the Hastings Lions Club and the Hastings Chamber of Commerce.

Charles enjoyed learning and was an avid reader. He often turned his hands to creating or making things better.  He became proficient at decoy carving, antique furniture repair and refinishing, as well as gardening. He quietly lent a helping hand to neighbors wherever he lived.  In recent years, Charles became dedicated to genealogical research tracing both his and Dona’s ancestors to the early 15th century. He valued spending time with family members which included the family dogs.

Charles has gone ahead, leaving behind his loving family who await reunion with him:  Dona, his wife of 64 years; Janet Elaine (Johnston) Ostrum (Norman), daughter; Carly Rose Ostrum BSN, granddaughter; Ziggy, grand dog and best friend.  Charles was preceded in death by his parents.

Honoring the wishes of Charles, cremation has taken place. Interment will follow at Oakridge Cemetery, Marshall.  The family is being ministered to by special friend, the Rev. Melany Chalker, Marshall United Methodist Church.  Memorial contributions in memory of Charles are requested to the Marshall Community Foundation.  An endowment to benefit the Marshall District Library in memory of Charles has been established. Memorial assistance is also available through Kempf Family Funeral and Cremation Services.  Leave a personal message for the family and sign the online guestbook at

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