A Tribute to Pat Johnston
Few in the Scottish dance community could deny the far-reaching impact of Pat Johnston. With a personality far bigger than her stature, her influence on the Scottish community extends throughout North Carolina and far beyond. Originally from Hendersonville, Pat made her home in Cary, in the triangle region of North Carolina. Having a keen interest in their Scottish heritage, Pat and her beloved husband, Steve, enrolled their children in Highland dance lessons with Cary dance instructor, Jo Kalat. Pat developed a love of Highland dance herself, started taking classes and eventually became a teacher. In time she also became a local authority on Scottish Country dance. She taught dance out of her home for many years, until she and her daughter, Amy Mooney, successfully opened a dance studio in Cary.
For decades, Pat and her entire family, from siblings to grandchildren, were a long-standing presence at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, competing in many events, representing Clan Johnston in the Parade of Tartans, and volunteering at the Highland dance venue. Pat devoted countless hours to all aspects of the Highland dance competition and was a dedicated member of the GMHG planning team. Her contributions were recognized in 2016, when she was presented with the Agnes McRae Morton Award.
In addition to her service to the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, Pat was a trusted mainstay in other Scottish organizations and events. She was a founding member of the Scottish Cultural Organization of the Triangle, serving as treasurer for the organization for many years. In association with SCOT, she also was a founder of the Cary Indoor Highland Dance Competition. Pat filled many roles for dance competitions from Virginia to Florida, and was instrumental in reviving SSA, the School of Scottish Arts, which takes place in Banner Elk, NC the week prior to GMHG.
Pat’s commitment to Scottish organizations and heritage also extended to the national level. She served as longtime treasurer for FUSTA (now ScotDance USA), the governing organization for Highland dance in the United States. Through her work at ScotDance USA, she became well-known and respected by dance teachers and dancers throughout the United States, and other countries as well.
Pat will be fondly remembered for her ever-present visor (in fair or foul weather, indoors or out), her belief that Crocs can be worn to any event, and her bottomless iPod collection of Scottish dance music. Her well-known resourcefulness and inventiveness were epitomized by her equally bottomless “bag” (always in tartan print), containing everything from safety pins, elastic and electrical tape to office supplies, tarps and lunch. Any dancer that ever attended SSA under her guidance can recount at least one of her Scottish history tidbits and give testimony to her love for the SSA songbook.
While Pat’s love for all things Scottish was great indeed, it paled in comparison to her enthusiasm for life. Devoted wife, mother, and grandmother. Generous with her time and talents. Always seeing the best in all people and in all situations. Dedicated, loving, passionate, inviting, loyal, wise. These words all describe Pat, but that BIG personality could never be contained by something so small as words. Maybe Pat could find a fitting Scottish folk song instead.