Martin F. Johns

Feb. 19, 1958 - Nov. 10, 206
Martin F. Johns, Feb. 19, 1958 - Nov. 10, 206

Martin Foster Johns, an ardent surfer and fisherman in his hometown of Montauk, died of pneumonia in Sebastian, Fla., on Nov. 10, at the age of 58. He had been greatly weakened over the last three years by a combination of Lyme disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, often called Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

He was born in Dallas on Feb. 19, 1958, to Vernon Johns and the former Ellen Pilbro, who moved to Montauk, where she had grown up, when Martin was an infant. He was the younger of their two children. 

His grandmother ran a restaurant on Second House Road called Pilbro’s, and his grandfather ran the Mohawk Cottages next door. The family lived on one side of the restaurant building, which is still standing; it looks like a double house. Old-timers still speak of Pilbro’s with affection.

Mr. Johns attended the Montauk School and East Hampton High School, graduating with the class of 1976. He was a Boy Scout, and loved playing baseball. As a teenager he took up surfing, and it became his passion. Stan Pluhowski, a childhood friend, said he was “an avid surfer, a very good surfer. Atlantic Terrace beach was his favorite break. And Turtle Cove.” His first board was a Nomad, Mr. Pluhowski recalled, followed by a Sunshine.

Mr. Johns’s mother was an accomplished baker, and he worked for a time in the Montauk Bake Shop, then as a chef in Montauk’s top restaurants. He was a chef at Gosman’s for many years, and at Dave’s Grill as well.

Along with a number of other Montauk surfers, he began going to Rincon, Puerto Rico, in the winters. His favorite beach there was Maria’s, Mr. Pluhowski said, adding that Mr. Johns had married a woman whom he met in Rincon, but that the marriage lasted only a short time. 

Mr. Johns, who lived on Fairview Avenue until May, when he sold his house and moved to Sebastian, enjoyed fishing in his kayak, said another friend, James Lancaster. He also loved the music of the ’70s, Jethro Tull most of all.

His sister, Susan Pluhowski, died in 1997. Mr. Johns, who had a dog that he loved, a Chihuahua, leaves no immediate survivors.

He was cremated, and his ashes will be spread off Montauk after a service in the spring. Mr. Lancaster suggested memorial donations for the Montauk Community Church, P.O. Box 698, Montauk 11954, or St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, Tenn., 38105.