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Joe Johnston dies at 74
Longtime local businessman Joe Pate Johnston died Thursday at the age of 74. - photo by Special
    Friends and associates of Joe Pate Johnston, who passed away Thursday at age 74, remember him as a friendly man whom everyone liked, a man of " integrity" and one with a passion for horses, bird dogs and the outdoors.
    The prominent Statesboro businessman and civic leader was a lifetime resident of Statesboro and Bulloch County. Before retirement he was an insurance salesman and real estate broker and developer.
    He retired from Lee, Hill and Johnston Insurors after selling the business to partners Pratt Hill and John Lee in 1986, but the business kept its name. Both Lee and Hill considered Johnston a part of their families.
    "Joe was my partner," said Hill. "I enjoyed working with him. He was one of t he best businessmen you could have. He was also a fraternity brother - Sigma Chi. He was a good friend."
    Hill recalled how Johnston loved fishing and running his bird dogs. He loved attending field trials and co-owned a dog with Howard Tucker and Greg Futch named " Laws High Noon," which won the Purina National Championship in 2000.
    "Joe was a second father to me," said Lee. "I went to work with him in 1982. He was a  good person, and did a lot of things for me he didn't have to do. He treated me like a son."
     Johnston was born in 1934 at Statesboro Hospital, later known as t he Norris Hotel. He was the first baby born by Caesarean section there.  Years later he  graduated from Statesboro High School in 1953 as a star athlete. , and later joined the U.S. Army, serving from 1957 through 1959, being stationed in Ft. Benning, Ft. Chaffee in Arkansas and serving in Germany.
    He was a member of the Statesboro First United  Methodist Church where he had served on the Board of Deacons;   a member and former president of the Statesboro-Bulloch Chamber of Commerce; board member of the Statesboro - Bulloch County Development Authority; the Bulloch County Hospital Authority and a member of the Statesboro Rotary Club.
    Johnston served on the Board of Directors of the First Bulloch Bank and Trust Company and its successor, BB&T Bank.  He also  served on the board of the Georgia Field Trial Association.
    He also received the Deen Day Service to Mankind Award in 1993.
    Johnston's friends all recognized his love for outdoors and outdoor sports, including field trials, where he worked with his beloved horses and dogs.
    "He was a good friend of mine," said Si Waters, who recalls many horse shows he and Johnston attended together, with Waters showing American Saddlebreds and Johnston showing Standardbred horses. "We were raised together, and had a of of hunting experiences, lot of football experiences and had a lot of good times together. He always had a good eye for a horse and a good eye for a bird dog."
    Robert Tanner went to work with Johnston 38 years ago, he said."Nobody I've ever worked for was better to me than he was. He was like a big brother to me."
    "I never heard him tell anybody no," Lee said. "He did a lot for Georgia Southern and Bulloch County. He really will be missed. He was a man of his word, and his integrity in business was unquestioned."
    "Joe was as straightforward as anybody I've met as far as being honest and ethical," Tanner said. "He really has helped me in my life. I'll miss him. He was a good friend and I owe my beginning to him."
    "I can only say good things about him," Waters said. " Everybody liked Joe. He always had something good  to say about whoever it was he was speaking of, and had a personal effect on everybody. People liked him."
    Johnston is survived by his wife of 52 years, Margaret Ann Dekle Johnston of Statesboro; three daughters and two sons in law, Anne J. Lomax of Statesboro, Janet J. and Cole Taylor of Santa Rosa Beach, FL and Jessica J. and Drew Klepchick of Atlanta and seven grandchildren, Annsley, Pate and Joseph Lomax, Casey and Shade Klepchick and Jessie and Colby Taylor.
     Funeral arrangements are expected to be completed this afternoon. Additional information regarding arrangements can be obtained by  contacting Joiner-Anderson Funeral Home at 912-764-7725.
     Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at 489-9414.
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