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Michelle Johnston: Dundee family’s tribute to selfless daughter, 49

Michelle Johnston (nee Williams).

Tributes have been paid to popular Dundee deputy residential home manager Michelle Johnston, following the 49-year-old’s death after a long illness.

“She meant to world to us. She really did,” said mum June Williams.

Now, June, Michelle’s brother Trefor and husband Rod have chosen to share memories from her life. A life spent ‘putting everyone before herself.’

Raised in Dundee

Michelle Jane Williams Johnston was born in Catterick Camp near Richmond, Yorkshire, on December 19 1972.

She was the daughter of June and Trefor Williams.

Trefor, whose family came from Wales, was a bandsman in the Duke of Wellington Yorkshire regiment and the family lived near the army base.

They moved to Dundee when Michelle was three.

Michelle with Santa during a DC Thomson Christmas party.
Michelle with Santa during a DC Thomson Christmas party.

Trefor worked for DC Thomson in the sales room with the vendors at Meadowside.

He also worked in distribution before retiring after 35 years as one of the doormen on reception.

Christmas fun: Michelle with Father Christmas as a child.
Christmas fun: Michelle with Father Christmas as a child.

Michelle attended St Vincent’s Primary then St Saviour’s High School.

A life caring for others

Towards the end of secondary school Michelle worked on the checkouts of William Low, after her classes and at weekends.

She then attended college, where she began gaining care qualifications.

But before she began her career in earnest, she went backpacking with friends to Italy.

“She loved her time over there. She spent three months away but her love of travel continued throughout her life,” added June.

Michelle Johnston in her work uniform.
Michelle Johnston in her work uniform.

On her return she began working in a small care home, before moving to St Margaret’s Residential Home, Victoria Road, in 1994, age 22.

“She loved her job,” her husband, Rod Johnston, said, “because she loved people.”

Michelle progressed in her career, rising from care assistant and reaching deputy manager in the residential home where she spent most of her career.

Falling in love

Michelle met radio presenter Rod and the couple fell in love.

They tied the knot at the Invercarse Hotel in Dundee in 2011.

Rodney and Michelle Johnston on their wedding day
Rodney and Michelle Johnston.

They both loved to travel – visiting San Francisco, Niagara Falls and Rome, among other places.

But Michelle especially loved experiencing different cultures and restaurants, as well as listening to her eclectic music collection.

“She was really touristy,” added her brother, Trefor.

In sickness and in health

In 2019 Michelle became unwell.

Because she’s no longer here to tell her own story, the family wish to keep the nature of her illness private.

They added: “Anyone who knew Michelle will know she was the most courageous person.”

Sadly, while it looked for a while that Michelle was recovering, she became unwell again late last year.

Michelle with her late father, Trefor Williams, in happier times.

On November 30 Michelle was admitted to Ninewells Hospital.

She spent Christmas and New Year as an in-patient, and she kept finding ways to look after and care for those around her.

“Whether it was cakes for the nurses or making sure everyone was okay, she always thought about everyone else,” said June.

By New Year’s Day Michelle was transferred to Roxburghe House in Dundee.

One last wish

Before moving to hospice care Michelle’s final request to Rod was to enjoy a bowl of her favourite soup from a bar they both used to visit: Tonic on Nethergate.

“The people at Tonic don’t even do take-away but they were so accommodating. And it meant the world to me to give Michelle the one thing she wanted.”

Michelle Johnston of St Margaret’s Residential Home, Dundee.

Michelle passed away on January 5 with her husband and mum beside her.

“She loved to watch the birds while she was at Roxburghe House – and that’s what she was doing.”

Rod added: “I really hope she knew how much she meant to me.

“We travelled the globe together but she was my world.

“She was so brave. I can’t believe I won’t see her again.”

Final goodbye

Michelle is survived by Rod, her mum June, her younger brother, Trefor, and sister-in-law, Jackie.

A celebration of her life will take place on Friday January 28 at 10am in St Pius RC Church, Balerno Street, Dundee.

This will be followed by the interment at 11.30am at Pitkerro Grove Cemetery.

“Her dad has already passed away,” said mum June. “We are taking comfort from the thought that they are now both together again.”

You can read the family’s announcement here. 

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