Dozens of musicians come together to remember late, beloved Gardiner city councilor

GARDINER — Robert “Logan” Johnston has been described in numerous ways: Gardiner city councilor who served many organizations and on several boards, tremendously tall, great sense of humor and fan of Monty Python, farmer and longtime Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association board member and guitar player who loved the Grateful Dead and followed the band on tour.

Above all, however, Johnston, who died May 22 of an apparent heart attack at 69, was a compassionate man who cared deeply about helping others, according to those who knew him.

Many of the people he impacted, mentored and influenced came together Sunday for LoganFest, a celebration of his life, in Gardiner. The event was primarily organized by his son, Philip Johnston, and Christine Poulson, a local musician who said she met Logan Johnston in 2008 when he began attending her Sunday jams at the HydeOut at the Wharf in Hallowell.

“This is what we do when we lose someone,” Poulson said.

Poulson not only reached out to the participating musicians, but also coordinated their performances.

She compared the experience to putting together a dish.

“I like to call them pies. Pies by Ms. Poulson,” she said. “My job is to prepare a foundation and then bring in players like Pat Pepin and Jimmy Midnight, and these people that are great solo performers, with a great backline. They lead the charge, but they have this really great rhythm section behind them.”

The work is not unlike what Poulson did every week at the HydeOut at the Wharf.

She said her first impression of him was that he was a “towering individual” who was calm, friendly and enthusiastic. She said a music-filled festival was a great way for those who knew and loved Johnston to celebrate his life.

Philip Johnston said he and his father’s other loved ones decided to hold a service shortly after Logan Johnston’s death, and then gather later in the year for a celebration of life.

Philip Johnston said he and some of his father’s friends held a surprise party at Johnson Hall in Gardiner for Logan’s 60th birthday — a private “surprise jam” with his musician friends.

The surprise party was a decade ago. Logan Johnston would have celebrated his 70th birthday Monday.

Given his father was a well-known member of the community, Philip Johnston said it was not hard getting musicians and others to come together to celebrate Logan Johnston’s life.

Joshua Robbins, a bass player who performed at Sunday’s gathering, described Logan Johnston as a “mentor” he had known for two decades — as a fellow musician and a man with whom he worked at Oaklands Farm, which Johnston and his wife operated in Gardiner.

“We basically worked side by side every day, and it was an amazing time to get to know the man,” Robbins said. “He was just a really incredible human being, a great mentor and a great friend.”

Robbins said an event in Gardiner with dozens of Johnston’s fellow musicians would have meant a great deal to him.

“He doesn’t have to chase cows today,” Robbins said. “He can listen to music, somewhere, from his hometown.”

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