In Tribute: Bataan Death March survivor remembered for optimism

The last survivor of the Bataan Death March in Curry County returned in good spirits despite spending 3 1/2 years as a prisoner of war, family members said.

That was typical of Bud D. Johnston, they said, he always looked on the bright side. In this case he was alive.

Johnston, who died Nov. 20 at Retirement Ranch at the age of 95, was among the 1,800 members of the 200th and 515th Coast Guard Artillery Units who were ordered to surrender to Japanese forces on April 9, 1942.

The troops were forced to march to Japanese prison camps in what became known as the Bataan Death March. Those who collapsed along the way were shot or bayoneted.

Cora Henson said her older brother did not share much of his experience of the death march.

Lucile Johnston: Courtesy photo

Buren "Bud" D. Johnston at age 88.

"I never heard about him getting beaten or whipped," Henson said. "I don't think he would have told me if he had been."

With Johnston's death, there are 30 Bataan Death March survivors left in New Mexico, according to Ray Seva, public information officer for New Mexico department of veteran's services. Seva said another 29 survivors live in other states in the U.S.

Johnston grew up in Bellview, a rural community about 36 miles north of Clovis. He worked for the Santa Fe Railroad as a welder for 29 1/2 years before retiring in 1981.

Johnston liked to play country music on the guitar, play the violin and play pool at the Baxter-Curren Senior Center, family members said.

Henson described her brother as pleasant and easygoing. She said any unhappiness he experienced lasted only a few minutes.

"I was the youngest and he liked to tease me and I enjoyed it. We got along real well. He was always joking with me. I adored the ground he walked on."

Lucile Johnston described her husband as an independent man who was always ready to help her with any problem or activity around the house.

Lucile said Johnston stayed active until he suffered a broken hip on Nov. 2. She said he was fond of photography and often liked to photograph his visits to the annual Bataan Memorial Death March in White Sands.

"He always enjoyed company," Lucile said. "He was a people's person. He never talked very much but when he did say something it kind of meant something."

Johnston is also survived by another sister, Gladys Gordon and a sister-in-law, Pansy Johnston.

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