Thanks for making a donation in Rip's memory to Ithaca Youth Hockey. Please find his obituary below:
James “Rip” Johnston passed away peacefully in the overnight hours of January 15th, 2021. He was 76 years old.
Rip was not born in Ithaca, but he certainly considered himself to be a native Ithacan. Recruited by Ned Harkness to play hockey at Cornell, Rip came to town from Toronto in 1965 and spent the next 4 years on East Hill playing hockey and occasionally going to class. His nickname was in homage to Rip Van Winkle and was a product of his penchant for sleep and his ingenuity; in order to create a perfectly dark and cozy space where he could indulge this pastime, he realized that you don’t need window blinds when you have a perfectly good can of black paint. Lifelong prized possessions included a 1967 Ivy League Championship ring as well as untold numbers of memories and quips about life as a Big Red Hockey player.
After his time at Cornell, Rip married his high school sweetheart Sharon, and they spent an eventful year in the Colorado mountains. Having developed a love of his college town, Rip and Sharon returned to and settled in Ithaca, and raised a family. Rip owned or ran a couple of local watering holes and he and Sharon also owned a dog kennel. Rip never met a dog that he did not love and could find some time for the occasional cat. Rip would have been familiar to thousands of local children and young adults as an ICSD bus driver for 20 + years, ferrying Ithaca kids to and from school and around Central NY for extracurricular activities. Rip also was responsible for training his teammates and administering State-wide safety tests for the ICSD team.
At home, Rip never missed a game that his 2 sons were in and over the years lent a hand coaching T-ball and youth hockey teams. He was always a quiet and steady voice, both supporting and pushing his boys to be their best athletically, academically, and most importantly as human beings. He and Sharon made numerous sacrifices in order for their sons to attend academically challenging schools and universities and to participate on competitive football, hockey, baseball and lacrosse teams. But you would not know that unless you spoke to others who knew, as Rip did not boast about such things, as he saw them as simply the right thing to do. He had a quiet and affable demeanor, was quick to make friends and was always looking for a laugh with anyone as he enjoyed people of all persuasions, cultures, and creeds.
In the fall, Rip celebrated his 50-year anniversary to his wife Sharon on, of all days, Halloween day, another subtle nod to their unique approach to life and atypical scheduling. He also leaves behind his son Marshall (44) and daughter in law Alicia Kurpiewski; his son Bradley (43) and daughter in law Jodi Rodgers, as well as 4 Grandchildren; Marshall and Alicia’s sons Alexander James (AJ) (9), Logan (7), and Brad and Jodi’s daughters Lily (4) and Sadie (2).
A memorial service will be held in his honor once those types of events are again in fashion. Rip’s family enthusiastically looks forward to gathering with all his friends when the time is right, and as he would say to Marshall and Brad, we’ll be sure to “make sure the beer is cold”.
If so moved, in lieu of flowers, a donation can be made in Rip’s name to the Ithaca Youth Hockey Association.