Let me introduce you to Terry’s Great Aunt Della Evelyn JOHNSTON, his paternal grandmother’s younger sister who was in fact a music teacher. We think that Della was born in Vancouver BC on 13 Dec 1889, although the 1901 Canada census says the year was 1890, and her death registration claims her birth wasn't until 1893 (we know this is inaccurate as she was already born by the time of the 1891 census). She was the fifth of six children born to James Irvine JOHNSTON and Deborah Sophronia KERFOOT, both natives of Ontario who married in Emerson Manitoba in 1881. Birth records have been located for only two of their six children, sadly not including Della. We know from city directories that her father James JOHNSTON was living in Vancouver BC by 1890. Della's four older siblings were born in Manitoba between 1882 and 1887. The death registration for her oldest brother Douglas Howard JOHNSTON says that when he died in 1943 at age 61, he had lived in BC for 54 years; this implies the family moved to BC in about 1889. The 1891 census says that Della (age 1) and the rest her her family were all born in Ontario. In 1901 her birth location is recorded as "Canada", although someone has overwritten it with “BC”. As the family was obviously in transition around the time of Della's birth, I'm wondering if her birth was ever registered?
During her childhood, Della lived with her parents in Vancouver, first in rooms on Hamilton (1890-1892), than at 449 Westminster Road (1894-1895), 831 Burrard (1896-1899), and 895 Burrard (1900). When her father died in Sep 1900 from cancer, her mother was left to care for the young family. By 1910, some of the family was living at 1419 Harwood, but not Della. She was probably the Della Johnston, clerk, living at 235 East Hastings. I'm also assuming here that she worked as a clerk at the family "Kerfoot & Johnston" clothing store at this time. By 1911 this store had closed. I'm drawing a blank on Della's location for the next few years. Did she really attend the Toronto Conservatory of Music, perhaps during this time?
Clues as to Della's musical talent came from another researcher with unnamed sources:
"She was a graduate of the Toronto Conservatory of Music. She was a member of the Vancouver Women's Musical Club and the Vancouver Symphony Society. She was considered one of the best teachers in the city.”
Johnston Mrs Della E mus tchr 5741 Gran r 2180 SW Marine
Johnston Doug E (Della E) h 2180 SW Marine
* Johnston Della E wid A h 1146 W 10
[* Note that this third listing is for a different Della E Johnston, widow of A L Johnston, living on W 10th. Although probably in different generations, their common names make it easy to confuse these individuals. I do not know if or how she might be related.]
Perhaps our Della felt able to take on a separate location for her teaching once her daughter Pamela had grown up. She may have taken on additional students to cover the expenses. Della’s studio location (5741 Granville, where Granville meets SW Marine Drive at the foot of 72nd Ave), was fairly close to her home.
On the Canadian Encyclopedia site, I also found a piano teacher named Della Johnston in Vancouver, mentioned in the biographies of two students Ursula Malkin and Norma (Kathleen) Abernathy. These students went on to distinguish themselves in their own musical careers. So perhaps this is our Della’s legacy.
All too soon Della's music was silenced. At the age of 59, Della JOHNSTON died from a stroke on 12 Apr 1949 at her home on SW Marine Drive in Vancouver. Her husband died two years later.