Simon Johnston – A tribute from Greg Treadwell

Written by on May 12, 2009

The island’s reeling with the news this week that Simon Johnston, journalist, musician, poet, raconteur, humourist, intellectual, family man and lovable drunk (hey, he liked spades called spades) died suddenly, tragically, prematurely while trying to get back to the wharf from a departing ferry at Devonport.

It’s been noted that just about everyone this week is talking about Simon. That’s good because Simon was one of my dearest friends and it somehow makes his senseless death somehow less senseless if everyone else knows what a special man he was. But perhaps that’s just grief trying to resolve itself before time.

 Like the island itself, I’m going to have to get through this. It will take time. I’m going to have to come to accept that I won’t see him striding through the village any more. That he won’t be at the Schooner, kidding with the staff. Or, later on, making merry in one of Oneroa’s bars. That we won’t share our deepest secrets any more. That I won’t ever again read his eloquent journalism. Or listen to him quote Leonard Cohen or Bob Dylan. Or read his so-precise account of Denis O’Connor’s mysterious works of art. Or read his moving editorials about his father at Anzac Day. Or listen to him play at the Sunday Jam. Or listen to him talk proudly about his children. It’s almost incomprehensible that none of these things will happen again.

Simon’s contribution to the island was meaningful and long-term. His work for Gulf News over many years (he twice spent periods as editor) helped shape the island we know today. As a journalist, he had one of the best bullshit detectors I’ve seen in action. That alone, made him invaluable and a joy to work with. Add to that the fact his writing was rich with empathy, always sought justice and was never condescending to its readers and you have the kind of journalist we need all too much in today’s twisted media landscape.
We’ll miss him. Perhaps this week some of us are cursing him for some lack of judgement we can’t ever understand. But all of us who knew him are talking about him because it’s just crazy, wrong that he isn’t here.
Greg Treadwell

Following todays’ shocking news and walking around Waiheke today it seemed that everyone had something to say about Simon and wanted to talk about him.  Please feel free to use this blog to say a few words about Simon by clicking ‘add new comment’ below.  
Simon Mansfield
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