BELLINGHAM - David A. Johnston loved heavy metal, hockey and fixing cars, and those who knew him already miss him.
The Whatcom County Sheriff's Office identified Johnston, 40, as the man who disappeared while swimming in the south end of Lake Whatcom Sunday, July 8. His body wasn't found in a search, but he is presumed dead.
Johnston had worked at Rainbow Automotive Service & Sales in Bellingham for 11 years, and the owners were devastated by the news of his death.
"Yesterday was a sad day here," Virginia Watson, who co-owns the shop with her husband, Larry, said Tuesday.
Johnston was an undercarriage tech for the shop, which specializes in Volvos, and he kept a tally of every transmission he changed, Watson said. She thought he was up to 1,085.
"He had an incredible work ethic; he was a really hard-working guy," she said. "You could kind of set your clock by him. I knew it was 8 a.m. when I saw Dave's car."
She described him as a huge fan of heavy metal and the band Kiss, which he "rocked out to" while working on cars. In his spare time, he enjoyed hockey and fishing.
"He's kind of a man's man," she said.
But he had a warm side, too. She remembered how touched the Gulf War veteran had been when she'd gotten him a card for Veterans Day.
Johnston was married three years ago, and his anniversary would've been next week, Watson said. This weekend would've been his 41st birthday.
She found it hard to believe that after all of his time on the water - he'd owned a boat as long as she could remember - he would drown. He had been riding inner tubes Sunday with friends and then went swimming in an area south of the Sudden Valley marina. As he was making his way back to the boat, he called for help and vanished beneath the surface.
Watson described him as a good swimmer and couldn't understand what went wrong.
In addition to his job at the auto shop, Johnston worked part time as a carrier for The Bellingham Herald and ran a tree nursery called Dave's Firs and More. He grew a variety of trees and sold them locally.
"It's kind of comforting to know his trees are planted all around the county," Watson said.