March 27, 1945 – July 26, 2018

The family of Michael is saddened to announce his death on July 26 after a short battle with cancer. Michael lived his life bravely with a fierce commitment to social justice. He had a diverse and loyal group of friends who, along with family, made sure his last weeks included as much laughter, love and ice cream as could be possible.

Michael was proudly “out there” as one of the country’s original gay rights activists. He described how, at age 13, he had no words to describe what he knew about himself but he just knew he was different. The inner turmoils of those early years eventually formed Michael into the warm, funny and caring man he was until his death at Emmanuel House. In the 1970s and 80s whether in Ottawa, Hamilton or elsewhere he would often be the face and voice to the issues faced by the gay community. Michael, a voracious saver of all sorts of memorabilia, was the keeper of the Hamilton Queer Archives which are now transitioning to the Hamilton Public Library Archives.

He was a lifetime member of Binkley United Church. He found new dedication to the congregation and the work of the greater church following the 1988 United Church commitment to the full inclusion of all individuals in the life and work of the church regardless of sexual orientation.

He graduated from McMaster University in 1969 where he was fully engaged in student life, serving as President of the McMaster Students Union. In the 1980’s he went back to school at Mohawk College to become a registered nurse. For more than 25 years before his retirement Michael worked as an RN at the Hamilton General Hospital, mainly in the post-operative care unit. There he offered a compassionate and steady presence to patients and their families.

Michael was proud of his more than 35 years of sobriety and was a continuing volunteer with Alcoholics Anonymous until just a few months ago. He gave up smoking decades ago but it was lung cancer that arrived unexpectedly to take him from us way too early.

He felt his real purpose in life was to speak up and provide support for those who faced inequality and lack of access to support as a result of homophobia, poverty, education and other social injustices. He served on the Social Justice and World Outreach committee of the Hamilton Presbytery of the United Church of Canada. Michael was the founder of the Hamilton Aids Society. He was also an active member of the Hamilton Group of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East.

He travelled as much as he could and said that as a young person growing up in West Hamilton he could not have imagined such travel would ever be possible. This included trips to Israel, Palestine, China, Cuba and Australia where he could gain knowledge about social justice issues first-hand. In Australia he fulfilled another of his passions by seeking new connections in the Johnstone and Kidd family tree.

Michael was the youngest and much-loved brother to sisters Kathleen (Bob Cruickshanks), Roberta (Dennis Jackson) and brother Bill (Eleanor Johnstone). His nieces and nephews were grateful for the annual Christmas bottle of Palestinian olive oil. All of his great nieces and nephews remember him fondly for their subscriptions to Chirp, Chickadee and Owl magazines. He didn’t have the opportunity to start the tradition again with the great grandnieces and nephew who have joined the family in the past four years.

The family would like to thank the staff on C3 at the Henderson (Juravinski) for their attention and care of Michael in early July and offer a very special thank you to the staff of Emmanuel House.

Visitations to be held Thursday August 2nd, 2 – 4 p.m. or 7 – 9 p.m. at the Turner Family Funeral Home, 53 Main Street in Dundas. All are warmly welcome to join in Michael’s celebration of life Friday August 3rd at Binkley United Church, 1570 Main Street West at 12:30 p.m..

In lieu of flowers the family requests you consider donations to the following – or any charity you feel Michael would support: The United Church of Canada Foundation Seeds of Hope program; the Cruickshanks-Johnstone Book Award at McMaster University; and the ABACUS project of the Hamilton Community Foundation.

24 Messages to Johnstone, Michael Roderick

  • Rev. Curtis Marwood

    I am sorry to have just learned of Michael’s passing. I had come to know Michael through his work of solidarity on behalf of the Palestinians in their struggle for justice, and in particular as a member of the United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine and Israel. In that role, I had come to know Michael as a friend whom I and, I trust, others will miss. I appreciate and honour him for his commitment to social justice in several fields as outlined in this summary of his life. May his memory endure through his legacy.

  • Tom and Eloise Coleman

    My condolences to Bill and the rest of Michael’s family over his recent and rather sudden death. We, as the old Westdale crowd, many of whom became the McMaster crowd, had many good times and shared experiences with Michael over many years. Since my wife and I moved to Brockville 19 years ago, we had lost touch with him. He was always the “youngest” of the group and had many issues to deal with in his life, but he always managed to come out of them and find new issues and challenges to conquer. Always a very bright and personable individual, Michael’s more recent years, as outlined in the obit, were spent in many worthwhile projects and causes. Several people we know have said what a great nurse he had been. It’s always hard to lose someone with such a pure heart and a true commitment to make things better. He’ll be missed and fondly remembered.

  • Wolter, Gunhild Ellen

    I met Michael at MCMaster University and he was active politics and attended theatre that I was involved in. In the late 80’s we saw one another again and he encouraged : I attended Brinkley United Church to learn Hand stitched patchwork and he commissioned Jesse to do a portrait of me. Later he commissioned a skateboard. In 2006 he stayed with me in Berlin for 2 weeks, going to AA and seeing a Gay Museum plus attending a once in a lifetime Rembrandt exhibition at a museum with Jesse.
    We went numerous museums and saw the city a bit. Recently we saw a play about Toller Cranston, an old friend of mine.we miss him, but it is a blessing he did not suffer too long. Birthday dinners with Russ Brown and him are also over and missed. Rest In Peace.

  • Gunhild Ellen Wolter

    Whether at McMaster University, where he was active and I was in Dramatic Society, or later when he would help me with shopping by driving, going to plays with him, birthday dinners of his, Russell Brown & mine for many years, he commissioned my son Jesse for a portrait of me and a custom designed skateboard for him with image of Edward Snowden put on it. His Berlin, Germany visit to me saw us go to museums, a mega Rembrandt show with my son, AA & Gay Museum on his own. Saw play about Toller Cranston with him recently (who was a friend of mine). Yes, a wonderful person who contributed to community, friends and church, where I learned to hand stitch Patchwork Quilts. Thank you Michael.

  • Gunhild Ellen Wolter

    I knew Michael since McMaster University 1967, where he was active and I was with the McMaster Dramatic Society.
    Later on, in the 1980’s and onwards, he commissioned my son Jesse to do a portrait of me for him, and a few years ago to design a skateboard and transfer an image of Edward Snowden onto it. He helped me, driving to shopping, on & on, very kind to me (who has no car). His visit to me in Berlin for 2 weeks was fun and he went to AA there, Gay Museum, numerous museums with mea mega Rembrandt show with my son Jesse and numerous museums with me. I learned hand stitched patchwork at Binkley United Church through him. I am glad he did not suffer too long. Yes, we also went to the Royal Canadian Rowing Regatta once
    and he even took my Mom to vote in his car. Russell Brown, Michael & I would go out for dinners on our birthdays.
    Rest In Peace Michael.

  • Dermot Nolan

    I was very sorry to miss Michael’s funeral service. Unfortunately, I was told it would be at 2 PM yesterday but when my wife and I arrived, we were informed that the funeral was over because the time had been changed to 12:30. Although that was disappointing, I was blessed to have had a very good visit with him the week before. He was astonishingly sanguine about his situation (even about the “undiscovered country” he would soon be discovering!) Most importantly, he was ready for his “victory lap” and proudly satisfied (as well he should be) with what he had done with the life he was given. He was a brave, gentle, brilliant man, a part of whose journey I was privileged to share. He taught me much. He made the world better. His exit, like his life, was a picture of grace. Ave Atque Vale my old friend.
    Love, Dermot (and Tami)

  • Thomas Woodley

    Our condolences to the Johnstone and related families. Michael was a wonderful soul who gave generously of his time, energy and expertise to many social causes. I worked with Michael on the issue of Palestinian human rights, and his empathy and commitment were inspiring. Despite the occasional setback, Michael always remained optimistic, and encouraged others to continue the work. He will be sorely missed, as a friend, source of inspiration, and co-labourer for social justice.

  • Darren Heaphy

    Michael and I met through mutual friends, Bill and Dr. Bob.
    Michael in many ways is a kindred spirit for me. I wish we had more time together to reflect upon our common bonds. My thoughts and prayers to his family and friends as We’ve lost another of the “good ones” too soon.

  • Gerda deVos

    I worked with Michael for many years at the General in PACU. Micheal loved “food days” and going out with the girls from work. He was a gentle soul, with a fierce compassion to help others in need. Many people benefited by his endless volunteering. He always greeted you with a smile. He loved being around young people and loved his family.
    He will be missed by so many people. Michael, you made this world a better place. Thank you
    Deepest sympathy to the family,
    Gerda deVos

  • Donna Yates

    I first met Michael in the 1960’s when we were students at McMaster University and over the years saw him evolve and grow into the beautiful human being who brought light and wisdom to every situation. He was so thoughtful and giving of himself wherever he saw a need. He lives on in our hearts.

  • Helen Sweet

    My thoughts & prayers are with you, Bill & Eleanor, and all of the family..

  • Jim Yates

    I have not seen Michael since our high school years, but we reconnected on Facebook and exchanged memories and updates over the last few years. We both were members of 76th Hamilton Scout troop and Binkley United youth groups. Michael, Jim Cox, my brother Gary and I attended the 1962 Mariposa Folk Festival and camped just outside of Orillia. I have a couple of photos that I will share to Michael’s Facebook page.
    My condolences to Michael’s friends and family.

  • Kathy Alviano

    I am so sorry to hear of the loss of Michael. He had a heart of gold. I worked with Michael for many years at Hamilton General PACU. He was amazing nurse and very dedicated to his patients.
    Michael the community has lost a very special person…you will be missed immensely. Heaven has gained a special Angel.
    Love you my friend!

  • Robert Massoud, Zatoun Olive Oil from Palestine

    My sincere condolences to Michael’s family on his passing. I never met Michael in person but only through email. He was one of the first customers of Zatoun and certainly the first from Hamilton-area. I am greatly saddened by his passing but overjoyed to learn that he made use of his time among us to build relationships and bring love and joy. I am so pleased that he thought enough of Palestine to give Zatoun for Christmas gifts to his loved ones. I am also moved that the family chose to remember Michael with a photo where he is wearing a Palestinian kaffiyeh (headscarf).

    As with so many people, I know them only as supporters and customers of Zatoun and not much else although I suspect a love of community, a commitment to justice and the courage to be active. This is what brings them to Zatoun in the first place. I celebrate Michael’s life and the circle of love he created and nurtured throughout his life.

    May he rest in peace and his memory live long to help us bring about the justice he so desired.

  • Win

    Thanks for the obit. What a wonderful man he was. So many talents and you can be proud to be part of his family. Win

  • John Roberts

    Michael was a real pioneer and warrior for social causes. The world is a better place because he was a part of it.
    John Roberts
    Gabriel Tarmure

  • Michael W. K. Chan

    Michael was a great nurse, a trusted friend and a wonderful travel companion. He always had his heart in the right place. I will miss him terribly. Condolences to his family and his many circles of friends.

  • Rosmarie Patak

    Our deepest sympathy to Michael’s family. So sorry, to hear of his passing. Such a gentle & thoughtful member of our Binkley family. You’ll be missed by everyone, Michael.

  • Heather Bache

    Rest in peace, Michael. You were a delight to work with. Your sense of humour made our shifts together enjoyable. Thinking of you and family. Heather

  • Carol Town

    We are thinking of all of you and of Michael. He was a wonderful person – so openhearted and kind.. – and funny! We can only imagine how much you will miss him. Sending love and sympathy from Town branch of the family – Irene, Sue, Carol & Richard, David & Patti, and our families. xxxxx

  • Ilga & Sam Valters

    RIP kind and gentle soul

  • Diane Calder

    So sorry Michael passed away. What a beautiful tribute this obituary is. He will be missed by so many.
    Love Diane

  • Ann Chidwick

    Roberta, thank you for sending this obituary about Michael. He was always such a great support with the Kidd Clan and it was my honour and pleasure to have known him. My life has been richer having known him.

    God bless you as you journey without him.

    Love Ann Chidwick

  • Cindy Robinson

    Our sympathies to the Johnstone-Cruickshanks-Jackson families. We remember Michael fondly from family reunions and many get togethers over the years. He was always a fun loving person. Your good memories will sustain you in the coming days and years. You are in our thoughts and prayers.
    Marg (late Ken) Duff and family

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