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Letter: Ode to Brent Johnston, a talented native son

Jun 15, 2024

The passing of a local boy-made-good went unremarked. A tribute was held on June 1, 2024.

I submit this memorial.

Brent Johnston was the "love child" of Liberace and Carol Channing.

Or so he told people.

He was also a gem; a Davis County boy wonder.

Yes, I am his relative. But who better to give him his due?

Brent was an entertainer.

The Liberace Piano Competition once passed him over because -- a judge would say -- he out-played Liberace.

He was much more than a lounge act. He was a devoted student of music with many skills.

He played Carnegie Hall.

He played Hollywood.

He played USO tours with Eugene Jelesnik.

He played New Zealand so often and so well that fans erected a statue of him.

He was a Tinsel Town natural with Clinton sand in his cuffs.

In later years he lived under the radar. When not traveling abroad, he ran a fine-dining restaurant in Alpine, Wyo. called "Brenthoven's," a nickname given him by Hollywood's Martha Raye.

For those partial to by-the-book obituaries, Brent was born on November 15, 1946 to Elwood and Cleone Johnston, two Clinton community stalwarts.

He passed away last August 18th. Today he rests in the Clinton cemetery beside his parents.

On June 1st, friends and family members gathered at his gravesite for a memorial service. Kind words were spoken. Prayers were said. Afterward, we picnicked around his grave.

Brent would have applauded.

Heading home, I thought of the day in 1980 when Brent was asked to play a piano piece at our grandmother's funeral. The man who oozed stardust and show business, sat at the piano that day and played two hymns from the hymnbook -- and from the depths of his heart.

When he finished, the tenderness in the room was tangible, sweeter than any ovation.

Brent was a master of the unexpected. As the adage says, he was "never born to conform."

He was born to move people to tears, then turn those tears into smiles.

He was born to kindle joy.

He was the "love child" of us all.

Jerry Earl Johnston

Brigham City

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