Founder of lo­cal PR firm “lived life out loud”

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Ju­dith Kohler

De­scribed as some­one who busted a lot of bar­ri­ers and “lived life out loud,” Gwina­vere John­ston was con­sid­ered a trail­blazer when she started her own pub­lic re­la­tions firm in Den­ver in 1971.

The John­ston Group grew into John­stonWells, one of the larger pub­lic re­la­tions firms in the re­gion. The com­pany’s clients in­cluded Coors, US West, Qwest, Wells Fargo, Paci­fi­care and Good­will In­dus­tries.

“She busted through a lot of bar­ri­ers early on,” her daugh­ter, Gabi John­ston, said Mon­day.

The el­der John­ston died Nov. 1. She was 75. Her fam­ily said in an obituary that John­ston “took ad­van­tage of the med­i­cal-aid-in­dy­ing” state law af­ter strug­gling with her di­ag­no­sis of pro­gres­sive supranu­clear palsy.

John­ston was a Wy­oming na­tive, grow­ing up in the Sheri­dan and Dou­glas ar­eas. She earned a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in jour­nal­ism from the Univer­sity of Wy­oming and then moved to Col­orado, where she made a name for her­self in the busi­ness world.

“She trav­eled all over the place, to Prague, Ja­pan,” Gabi John­ston said. “When she was wasn’t trav­el­ing for work, she was trav­el­ing for plea­sure.”

John­ston was ded­i­cated to her pro­fes­sion, fam­ily mem­bers said. She served as pres­i­dent of IPREX North Amer­ica, a part­ner­ship of in­de­pen­dent pub­lic re­la­tions firms through­out the world, from 2004-08. In 2011, she was in­ducted into the Den­ver Press Club’s Hall of Fame.

Kate Oravez worked at John­stonWells af­ter mov­ing to Col­orado from Cal­i­for­nia in the mid-1990s. Oravez, now vice pres­i­dent of ex­ter­nal af­fairs at Com­cast, worked with John­ston for four years and col­lab­o­rated with her af­ter mov­ing on to other po­si­tions. She said John­ston had a hands-on lead­er­ship style and was fear­less, a trait she found to be con­ta­gious.

“She en­cour­aged oth­ers to be the same. It was em­pow­er­ing and in­spir­ing,” Oravez said. “You think about what was go­ing on when she started (her firm). She was a true pi­o­neer.”

John­ston was an in­au­gu­ral mem­ber of the Den­ver Metro Cham­ber Lead­er­ship Foun­da­tion’s Lead­er­ship Den­ver Class. She served on nu­mer­ous boards, in­clud­ing Mile High United Way, the Col­orado Ju­di­cial In­sti­tute, the Univer­sity of Wy­oming Foun­da­tion, Wy­oming Busi­ness Coun­cil, Den­ver Ath­letic Club, Out­ward Bound and Col­orado Busi­ness Com­mit­tee for the Arts.

It was im­por­tant to John­ston to give back to the com­mu­nity and she en­cour­aged her em­ploy­ees to do the same, said Kate Stabrawa, who worked at John­stonWells from 200208. The job was Stabrawa’s first upon mov­ing to Den­ver af­ter col­lege.

“One of the things I loved most about her was that she was will­ing to give chances and take chances,” said Stabrawa, a se­nior com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor at DaVita. “She took a chance on me. And she re­ally took chances as a busi­ness­woman. She would take on re­ally hard projects.”

The fam­ily plans a cel­e­bra­tion of John­ston’s life at 2 p.m. Fri­day at Que­bec Place at Fair­mount Ceme­tery, 430 S. Que­bec St. in Den­ver. They have asked peo­ple to wear, at least a bit, of John­ston’s fa­vorite col­ors — red, orange or yel­low.

Gwina­vere John­ston, who died Nov. 1, opened a Den­ver pub­lic re­la­tions firm in 1971.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.