By Patti Johnson


Introduction   We’ve previously shared two stories from Patti Johnson on WMSB:  Moments With Ma and The Box.   I knew Jeff Phair’s story I LOVE YOU, DAD would resonate deeply with Patti.   As she shares in The Box, she too had a strained relationship with her father, exacerbated by the premature death of her mother of complications from alcoholism when Patti was 16.  Her father had great difficulty  expressing his feelings for his daughter and Patti, like Jeff, could only interpret from this that her father did not love her.   That Patti would discover otherwise through a memory box she found in her father’s house soon after his death is eerily and wonderfully synchronistic with Jeff’s discovery and revelation.  Patti sent me her reaction to Jeff’s story and a poem she wrote about men, like Jeff’s dad and mine, who fought in and were broken down by World War II.   I am honored to share both with you.

Patti is an expert in the suffering of WWII soldiers and the pain they brought home and, in myriad of ways,  inflicted upon their families.  You see, Patti is exceptionally skilled in uncovering long thought lost records of the service of WWII veterans,sharing the information with  family members and helping them reach some closure with “what happened.”    Using the limited information available in Jeff’s story, she miraculously discovered and sent to Jeff over 20 records and photographs of his dad’s Navy service as an LST troop transport boat driver in some of the more horrific battles against the Japanese in the South Pacific Theatre, including the photos of Lt. Phair and crewmates and the LST 130 displayed in I LOVE YOU, DAD.    Jeff had never before seen any of this.

Thank you Patti Johnson for all you do to help sons like Jeff, Charlie Myers (stepping-into-the-twilight-zone) me and so many others.    Patti WROTE SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL.


From Patti Johnson   

Jeff’s story I LOVE YOU, DAD will strike such a chord with so many seemingly hardened MEN.
What I LOVE the most is that he took what he endured, growing
up without the assurance of a Father’s Love; and CHANGED his
own little corner of the world. He refused to follow that rough and
gruff example of Fatherhood, and made sure HIS children were
SECURE in his Love for them.

I am so glad he found his father’s “Memory Box”, because in it,
he found all the words his Father was unable to SAY. It was never that
His father did not love him, or was not proud of him; No, it was that
his Father did not know how to put it into MAN WORDS.

Some of us go through these things and become better people.
Too many others USE it as a CRUTCH; an excuse to repeat the
same treatment to the next generation.

Jeff did not ‘cry like a baby’ as he writes in his story upon the discovery of his father’s memory box. He cried like a grown man, finally understanding that his Father LOVED him the whole time.

As for his Father and WW II; I wrote a poem a few years back
after reading some of the Veterans’ war diaries, and seeing and
feeling things between the lines of their written words.
It goes:

I read their words, written long ago,
From another place and time.
They bring the sights, the sounds, the war,
Streaming into my mind.

Oh, they were just young eager boys,
Facing Fates beyond their years.
Too rapidly growing into men;
Forced to breathe with swallowed tears.

Their belief in Duty, Honor, Pride,
Pushed them through the daunting news.
They vowed to fight on, and to never forget,
the Fallen and Missing Crews.

And when they came home, at war’s end,
Among their bags and souvenirs,
They carried their Comrades in their Hearts,
And kept them safe for the rest of their years.

They never speak of their heroic feats,
The part they played in terror’s fall.
Instead they ask that you recall,
The Ones who gave their all.

 © Patti Johnson August 2009 


Jeff’s  Father likely saw those floating bodies for the
rest of his life, and wondered too why he wasn’t one
of them. PTSD; Survivor’s guilt. None of which
anybody admitted even existed in post World War II.
These were 18; 19; 20; 21 year old KIDS, who
were “forced” to SEE unimaginable things, and
when they came home, their marching orders were:

Forget about it. Stiff upper lip. Get on with your life.


Jeff and his Dad (1956)


Postscript from Casey:

One of my co-workers sent me the link to this video after reading I LOVE YOU, DAD.  This is a brutally honest and, ultimately, heartwarming admission of the terrible memories and anger fighter pilot Captain Jerry Yellin brought home from WWII in the South Pacific and kept deeply buried for so many years.   This is definitely worth a look and you will not be disappointed watching it through the amazing conclusion.

The Last Fighter Pilot


Captain Jerry Yellin (1944 and 2015)

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Author Bios

Write Me Something Beautiful Authors - Casey and Jimmy Gauntt

Casey Gauntt

is a retired attorney and former senior executive of a major San Diego real estate company. He lives in Solana Beach, California, with his wife, Hilary. Casey grew up in Itasca, Illinois, graduated Lake Park High School in 1968, and received B.S., JD and MBA degrees from the University of Southern California.

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Jimmy Gauntt

was born and raised in Solana Beach and graduated from Torrey Pines High School in 2002.   A prestigious Trustee Scholar at the University of Southern California, he majored in English and Spanish. He authored six plays, five screenplays, and a multitude of poems and short stories. Beginning in 2010, the USC English Department annually bestows the Jimmy Gauntt Memorial Award—aka “The Jimmy”—to the top graduates in English.  Jimmy passed over to the other side in 2008 at age 24.

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