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Ralphetta "Phil" A. (Simonetti) Johnston

March 9, 1920 ~ September 30, 2017 (age 97)
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Ralphetta “Phil” A. Johnston, 97, of Lewistown, passed away peacefully at 2:10 a.m., Saturday, September 30, 2017, at Geisinger-Lewistown Hospital.

Born March 9, 1920 in Burnham, she was a daughter of the late Anthony and Emanuella (Vilano) Simonetti, who immigrated to the United States from Naples, Italy.  In addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by her husband, Harry D. Johnston, whom she married in 1942, on March 2, 2001; three brothers, Sam, Cyril, and Charles Simonetti; four sisters, Mary Zampelli, Lena Richie, Antoinette Cicioni, and Lucy Summers; two half-sisters; and three half-brothers.

She is survived by: her children, H. Scott Johnston and wife, Joanne, and John E. Johnston, both of Lewistown; six grandchildren, Jennifer Ashenfelder and husband, Russ, of St. Johns, Fla., David Johnston and wife, Gwyneth, of Taiwan, Maggie Johnston, of Clearwater, Fla., Michele Reese and husband, Peter, of Harrisburg, N.C., Kristine Johnston, of Lewistown, and Sheri Johnston, of Camp Hill; ten great-grandchildren; siblings, Paul R. Simonetti, of Lewistown, and Frank Simonetti and wife, Freda, of Belleville; and four half-sisters.

Phil was a member of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church, Lewistown.

She earned her GED and was a homemaker in her early life.  Harry was a teacher and coach in six schools in Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey, and Ralphetta loyally followed his and her sons’ many football games.  She later was employed at Fisher Electronics in Milroy and Lockheed Aircraft in New Jersey.  She began studying art at age 50 at the prestigious duCret School of the Arts in Plainfield, New Jersey.  She took classes at night while she worked at Lockheed during the day. 

After twenty years at the age of 70, she earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1990 and was the oldest graduate ever from the school, a testament to her passion and perseverance to reach her dream.  She continued to take classes at duCret after graduation and many of her instructors were world renowned artists from New York City.

She won numerous awards at the duCret Arts Festival and other awards along the way.  She painted for thirty years in watercolor, oil, acrylic and pastel. She especially enjoyed painting portraits and landscapes, and Mifflin County often found their way into her work. Her favorite piece was a painting she did of the Mona Lisa.  She also played the organ.

A recent article appeared in The Sentinel where she presented Father William Weary with a painting of the former Catholic chapel in Naginey, one of three paintings gifted to Sacred Heart Church through her years. 

“Her paintings reveal patience and dedication, the beauty she saw in everyday life, and the love she always felt for her family” said her son, John.

A highlight of her life was taking a trip to Italy at age 90 with John, where they visited Florence, St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, and saw famous works of art.  

A Mass of Christian Burial service will be held at 10:30 a.m., Friday, Oct. 6, at Sacred Heart Church, 106 N. Dorcas St., Lewistown, with Father Jayson Amalanthan officiating.

A viewing with rosary service will be held from 6 to 8 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 5, at Heller-Hoenstine Funeral Homes, Woodlawn, 200 N. Main St., Lewistown.

Interment will take place in Juniata Memorial Park, Lewistown.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions in Ralphetta’s name may be made to: Sacred Heart School, 9 N. Brown St., Lewistown, PA 17044.

Charitable donations may be made to:

Sacred Heart School
9 N. Brown St., Lewistown PA 17044

 Service Information

October 5, 2017

6:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Heller-Hoenstine Funeral Home Woodlawn
200 N. Main St.
Lewistown, PA 17044

Mass of Christian Burial
October 6, 2017

10:30 AM
Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church
106 N. Dorcas St.
Lewistown, PA 17044

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