Since 2006 Eric Johnston was the lifeblood of TS#32 in Camdenton, MO. RAAM racers, crews and RAAM Media looked forward to his smile, his hospitality, his WiFi, iced watermelon and whatever other amenities and snacks he managed to acquire.
We caught bits of news last year that Eric had suffered through some serious health issues when Bill Benson posted this on Facebook, “We have gotten word that longtime TS-32 time station manager Eric Johnston is now hospitalized in Washington State where he had been caring for his sick brother. Details are sketchy at this time, but it appears Eric had suffered a series of heart attacks and strokes and was placed on a ventilator. Friends attempted to communicate with him by phone early in October but couldn't get many details. Doctors were apparently afraid at one point that we might lose him. We hope to have additional details soon. Please continue the prayer and positive thought. -Bill Benson”
News has been sporadic since, but Scott Gwillim, a Camdenton resident who volunteered at TS#32 last year said earlier this week, “The last I heard he was in an assisted care facility. And that’s all I know.” (If anyone knows more we’d like to hear it.) Gwillim is going to take over as TS-32 manager for this 35th edition of RAAM, “I worked it last year and just visited with Eric over the internet and Facebook but never met him.” He’ll be aided by Camdenton local Doug Thompson, “He’s going to help me with some of the organizational stuff. We’re going to meet with our Chamber of Commerce and see if we can get some local support. Like last year at the last moment a local farm supply store provided a giant trough that the riders could step into to cool off and clean up and we kept the water changed. We’ll have watermelon, ice, bottled water and I’m going to recruit some local people to man. I hope to grow it. I’d like to eventually have some local events to coincide with it—bike rides, get the local people to sit in their yards and ring a cowbell for the riders—that sort of thing.”
Much like Johnston, Gwillim thoroughly enjoys the interaction with the racers and crews. He related, “Last year (solo racer) Art Schwencke from New Zealand hit the wall and he stopped here. He and his family ended up staying here for a couple of days. My son has a pizza place and they went there and ate and hung out. I’m glad I got to meet him and his family—if he had to DNF I’m glad he did it here.”