Gudrun Johnston: April 23, 1926 – Aug. 11, 2020

April 23, 1926 - Aug. 11, 2020

Gudrun Johnston

Gudrun Johnston

Gudrun Johnston, of Clinton, Whidbey Island, Wash., being old and full of days, died with dignity in her home on Aug. 11, 2020. She was 94 years of age.

Gudrun Erna Wenk was born in the seaport city of Hamburg, Germany, on April 23, 1926, to parents Ernst Albert Wenk and Auguste Minna Frieda Topp.

Gudrun survived the terrors of war and gained a life-long compassion for humanity as a young student nurse attending to the hopelessly wounded young men of battle brought to the hospital.

There are people still living who may recall with gratitude, from the end times of the war with Germany, a courageous German teenager named Gudrun who guided desperate people and families fleeing the Iron Curtain of Russian occupation across the Elbe River boundary. On black, moonless nights, in her inflatable raft, she provided transport into the less revenge-driven English side. With terrifying close calls successfully dodging Russian patrol boats equipped with searchlights and orders to shoot Germans attempting to escape the Russian sector, she succeeded time after time. The English soldiers had a thirst for Russian vodka and little access to it, and the Russians had a taste for German pickled herring, so she saw the opportunity to barter for rations and supply both sides in the forbidden black market of those times. By learning the traits and habits of the guards stationed for who was attentive and who was not, she chose her secretive river crossings times with precision.

After the war, Gudrun married Harry Wolf in Germany on Feb. 7, 1947. It wasn’t long before fate intervened and, on Nov. 7, 1952, she married her second husband, Fritz Kuschnereit.

Gudrun followed Fritz to Canada in 1955 to build a new life. Life brought the Kuschnereit family to America in 1963, but not without struggles, and Gudrun gave marriage one last chance on March 26, 1971, when she married Dick Johnston, of Clinton, Wash. Inevitably, Gudrun opted for the single life.

Appreciating the freedoms the West offered, she attained her goal to become a naturalized American citizen in 2001.

Following in the Wenk family tradition, Gudrun loved art, music and, especially, dancing. Her father was a music instructor in Germany, and Gudrun’s lifelong passion for dancing never waivered, even into the last years of her life. You may remember Gudrun fondly through her faithful attendance and elegant dancing at the Senior Center and in earlier days other well known dancing spots where the band would often play the song “Pretty Woman” as she walked in.

Gudrun was also known for the many beautiful floral china ceramics that she so skillfully hand-painted.

And so our Mother, Großmutter and Great-Grandma has had a life well lived, filled with art, ambition and adventure of her own choosing. She peacefully ended her days surrounded by family, in the great natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest and in her beloved Whidbey Island home.

She is remembered by her children and community as a fiercely independent woman of her times who made the very best of the impossible hardships life can bring. She would wish to remind us to show appreciation for pretty flowers, kindness for the birds and the animals, and to enjoy their company as we follow our paths.

Gudrun is preceded in death by her parents, beloved brother, Siegfried Wenk, and sister, Krimhilde Poyraz.

Gudrun is survived by her siblings in Germany, including brothers, Olaf Wenk, Axel Wenk and Uwe Wenk, and sisters, Brunhilde Balke and Sigrid Müller; her four children, Peter Wolf, of Saint George, Utah, Fred Kuschnereit, of High Level, Alberta, Diane Lunn, of Slave Lake Alberta, and Monika Glassford, of Edmonton Alberta; 10 grandchildren; and many beloved great-grandchildren in both America and Canada.

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