With A Heavy Heart … Meet My Dad

August 16th…that’s the day Elvis fans remember where they were and how they heard the news that Elvis had died. I am one of those people but, now I’ll always remember August 16th, 2021 as the day my dear sweet Daddy died. The one thing I can thank the pandemic for is the chance to have him under our roof living safely in our care since 2019.

My Dad, John C. Putman, was born on July 8, 1934. He grew up in Dyersburg, Tennessee one of eight children. Life wasn’t easy in a big family growing up on the mill grounds. As a mature-for-his age teenager he was trained as a movie theater projectionist and was so well liked he ended up managing a chain of movie theaters in west Tennessee. He enjoyed regaling us with tales of those days especially meeting many of the movie cowboy heroes like “Lash” LaRue who would stop in the theater for their latest movie release.

While working in the movie theaters the then cocky teenager met and married his one and only true love, Gayla (Joyce) the popcorn girl. Their almost 60 year life together set the bar very high for what defines a well lived and well loved marriage. I was their only child, their honeymoon baby, named after Dad.

Mom & Dad

After moving to Chicago, in 1959, Dad knocked around at a number of jobs finally landing with a company he loved working for and retired early from when A. B. Dick Company was going out of business. He maintained many friendships he made in the three decades he worked there.

As a child I always thought of my Dad as a quiet man who made friends easily but, we really saw him blossom when he and Mom started spending time in Panama City Beach, Fl. It wasn’t uncommon for people to ask if he was a politician when they met him in Golden Corrall, Po’ Folks restaurant or Winn-Dixie. You see, he would walk right up to strangers, strike up a conversation, shake hands and if babies were around ask if he could kiss them too! In PCB he flourished. He finally confided in me that even though he’d lived in Chicago since 1960 he was very self conscious about his southern accent which he never lost. I saw it a hundred times throughout my childhood, someone would ask “where you from” and he would clam up but, in the Florida Panhandle he didn’t have an accent, he sounded like everyone else! Eventually, he embraced his accent along with his silver goatee he would enjoy being told he could be Col. Sanders!

He wasn’t athletic, never really liked sports but, thanks to Steve’s southside roots we adopted the White Sox during lockdown. He eventually looked forward to games the three of us would watch together. He was superstitious enough that he would watch a game to the bitter end for fear of jinxing the Sox.

He loved to cook and prided himself in being able to taste a food and tell you exactly what the ingredients were. He loved setting an attractive table and making food pleasing to the eye even if that meant carving roses out of radishes for garnish. Yet, with his love of cooking his favorite food was always a good ol’ Chicago hotdog.

He was an avid coin and knife collector for 50 plus years. Over the years he amassed an impressive collection of both. His idea of a good Saturday afternoon, if there were no westerns he hadn’t seen on tv, he would haul out the collections and lovingly go over coins or knives and usually find something new to excite him about them.

During 2020 when he was staying safe at home life could be boring…some days his favorite judge shows were turned off so he could catch up with friends and his sisters Linda and Wilma and brother Bill. They were always available to take their big brother’s phone calls.

Daddy with Linda, Bill & Wilma

He loved flowers. From the first peony popping open to daisies, coneflowers hydrangeas and roses he was excited to see them open in our garden. In recent years he did more maintenance, watering of the flowers but, he still loved being in the garden. Even if he was spending time at his condo in Florida, he always wanted to be back home in Chicago in time for Spring planting. While in Fl he did spend some delightful afternoons along with his buddy, Doc, being two of the only men in the PCB Garden Club.

His Florida lifestyle was quite different than life in the Chicago area. He enjoyed starting the day with his morning coffee while reading the paper (he had to have a daily paper!) on his condo balcony overlooking the gulf and watching sunsets from the same location. During the day, walks and a busy schedule of events with friends were his norm with a stop by our little yellow house for coffee and good conversation while sitting on the front porch. He said his visits were always made more enjoyable if Steve would be strumming a guitar while we chatted.

Dad holding Steve’s guitar

Dad was wild about New Orleans. His favorite trips were those he took with, our dear extended family friend, Steve Dokken (Doc) to the Crescent City. He often talked about how he just felt at home there. He loved the food, the music and frequently joked about “Sunshine,” a Cajun Queen he claimed waited for him in the Big Easy.

Daddy & Doc

Dad had a wonderful sense of humor that never failed to materialize when he thought one of his off the cuff, not off color, comments would shock you the most.

Dad cracking up me and Steve

In 1973 I was hospitalized after major surgery. After his first visit he was formally banned from entering my room! He would step in the door and within minutes I would be laughing hysterically while moaning in pain because I had a stomach full of stitches. The staff told him since he couldn’t behave himself he’d have to stay out. He did. Nurses were some of his favorite people.

He enjoyed all genres of music and I often thought his one regret was he never learned to play an instrument. He talked of having a mandolin as a child but, he never pursued playing it. His playlist included Willie Nelson, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Stones (we regret never getting him to a concert) and Chuck Berry, among others. If given a chance he would happily turn you on to an all time favorite tune, Bill Anderson’s “It’s Not My Job To Tote Your Monkey.” Yet, along with seeing the Stones, seeing an opera someday was on his bucket list. The Lyric Opera of Chicago‘s closure due to the pandemic cancelled his plans to join them for an evening.

He loved shopping, jewelry and clothes.

In his world if the event called for a smart, fitted sport coat, a colorful dress shirt (which he collected) and shoes to match then he was”dressed to the nines” and ready for anything. If there were females around, young and old chances were good they’d strike up a conversation asking about his cool shirt or his red shoes!

In recent years life was a roller coaster of up and down health events and, exactly one week before he left us, over his morning coffee, he shocked me when he said he thought things were coming to an end. I said, “the end of the world?” He softly chuckled and said no, he didn’t want to make me sad but he did want me to know he was ready. He then changed the subject.

I was so fortunate to not only be with him everyday for almost two years but, the weekend before he passed was the final weekend the hospital was allowing one visitor a day for anytime during an 8 hours period each day. I spent all that time with him for three days. On Sat. we talked a few times throughout the day then he would tell me he needed to nap a bit. Then Monday the 16th the hospital went back to the Covid restrictions of one visitor for one hour a day. I stepped into his room just as he took his final breath. I know he knew I was there.

Steve and I dreaded the day he would leave us but, we are comforted that he did it the way he often said he wanted to by just closing his eyes and going to sleep.

Someday in his memory wear that piece of clothing or jewelry you thought was “too much”, have a Chicago dog with the works (no ketchup), try a gin and tonic but, make it Bombay Sapphire, listen to the Stones, talk to a stranger and make your kids laugh so hard YOU should be reprimanded.

My Daddy will be loved and missed by us and many forever.



About steveandjohnnie

Award winning Chicago Broadcasters, inducted into WGN radio's Walk Of Fame. Authors of the Les Paul memoir, "A Little More Les." http://alittlemoreles.com You'll find even more about us at http://www.steveandjohnnie.com/
This entry was posted in Partly Personal, R.I.P. and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

40 Responses to With A Heavy Heart … Meet My Dad

  1. Cathie Shaffer says:

    What a loving tribute!

    Sent from the all new AOL app for Android

  2. Sally Pyne says:

    Absolutely beautiful piece about your Dad. Truly some of your very best work. Due to my Dad’s health recently I’ve spent much more time with him and am so grateful. This truly resonated with me. Thank you. Much love to you.
    Peace, Sally Pyne in Normal, IL

  3. Ellen says:

    So sorry Johnnie in the loss of your father John. He was an amazing father. May he Rest In Peace and he will be watching over you and Steve.

  4. Sue mcneil says:

    Are prayers are with you and Steve.

  5. Jo says:

    So sorry for your loss, but so happy for all the wonderful memories you have. God Bless you

  6. Gabriela Duran says:

    Oh what a wonderful Tribute ❤ Rest In Peace Uncle John.

  7. Mary Ann says:


  8. Scott says:

    So sorry, Johnnie. -Scott

  9. Reenie Prine says:

    Most sincere Condolences, Johnnie and Steve on the loss of such a beautiful man. Though I only met him once, very briefly when he was on his way back to PCB, his warm smile, charm and sense of humor popped out immediately. You and he were both very blessed. Prayers to help your family through this tough time. 🙏🏻🙏🏻

  10. Verna Gembeck ( Christmas stocking lady). says:

    Sorry for you’re loss , it’s a hard time to go through, but we all have to. Hugs and prayers.. Miss you on the 📻 .

  11. Jan Spiegel says:

    What a beautiful tribute to your dad.
    So very sorry for your loss. My deepest condolences to you and Steve.

  12. Betsy says:

    Johnnie & Steve, I am so sorry for your loss but so grateful to be able to know him a bit better with your loving tribute. So many memories that will be a blessing to reflect back on but he’s still your daddy and the pain is strong. Please accept our condolences.

  13. Hal and Margo Ross says:

    A wonderful remembrance. Our condolences to you, Steve, and your family.

  14. Wendy Koziol says:

    I’m so sorry Steve and Johnnie about your dad.
    Sending hugs to you and the family.

  15. Merlina Yousif says:

    What a lovely read about your dear dad. It was such a pleasure to know him. Charming is definitely an understatement. I hope your wonderful memories bring you comfort in time.

  16. Deb says:

    A life well loved is a life well lived! Thank you for sharing such a personal, heartfelt tribute to your dad, in your time of grief. He sounds like an amazing man that truly embraced life. I’m sure I can speak for many who’ve read this and although we only know you and Steve thru many years of listening to you thru the airwaves or reading your blogs, you’ve become the friends we’ve never met, and our hearts are heavy for your loss. I will be keeping you, Steve and your family in my prayers, now, and in the days to come.

  17. Jack Harris says:

    What a wonderful and fully celebrated life….I loved that he had a special affinity for New Orleans…What an incredible man, husband , father, human being person…you could tell that he love life and enjoyed himself as he loved his family and friends…God Bless

  18. Terry Straker says:

    I’m so sorry to hear this Johnnie. And I’m so glad I got to have dinner with y’all in May. He was, as you have so eloquently said, a wonderful human being.

  19. LINDA JOHNSON says:

    Dear Johnnie and Dear Steve…I thank you for sharing the life of a great man and in doing so, you have solid proof to refer to that shows how great he was. Johnnie, you are truly blessed to be there when he went to Heaven as it is a source of comfort and something that helps you understand the transition to the place where you will see him again when you pass. Thank you for sharing the soul of a good man in your biography of him. You and Steve are blessed and even more important, you know it!!!!!!Take care. Linda Sue

  20. Patricia Prange says:

    Johnnie, my heart goes out to you. Always remember how much you were loved always! Rest In Peace, John.

  21. Karen Manno says:

    My heartfelt condolences to you and Steve. What a wonderful man your father was…..no I didn’t know him, but reading what you wrote about him makes me feel like I did know him! What you wrote is beautiful…..a life well-lived and well loved. Now he is gracing heaven with his presence!
    May memories comfort you.
    R.I.P John Putman

  22. DianeCarlson says:

    How beautiful Johnnie. Many of the stories remind me of you, cooking, and gardening. I’m sorry for your loss🥰🙏

  23. Anna Braun says:

    What a loving tribute to your daddy, as Uncle Bobby would have said. Your post reminds me of the conversation you had with Bob Collins, after you commented on his telling his daddy I love you. None of us know when that last chance might be but you loved and your daddy knew if.
    Having lost my dad last November, I know the feeling of emptiness you may be feeling, but when you see a gentleman, dressed as a gentleman should be, you will smile and remember your dear dad.

  24. Joyce Farrell says:

    My deepest condolences on the loss of your Dad. May your fond memories sustain both of you both now and in the future..

  25. Denise Chudzik says:

    So profoundly sorry about the loss of your Father. It is such an extremely sad thing. But unfortunately, as life goes on we lose people that we love. It really stings right now, but eventually you will be able to think of you Father and shed a few less tears. Your Father seemed like a rather nice person. I am so happy you had a nice person to help raise you. As I am sure your Mother was as well. You will have the most wonderful memories of your Father forever. Prayers going up for you and your family🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻

  26. Lester Nixon says:

    Johnnie. My deepest condolences to you and your family. I can totally relate to how you feel. August 18th ( 1pm) was the 37-year anniversary of Momma,s death. We took care of Mom until her death. I was 24 when she died. She had been ill for a while. In 2002 11 days after his 90th birthday, Dad died. ( MAY 21 2002). Dad had been ill for several years. He went home from his home here. We cared for him till his deathJohnnie.I will keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers.

  27. Donna Kivland says:

    Even after 52 years I still miss my Dad, so I know John will be “with you” the rest of your life; but he’ll also be reunited with the love of his life–your Mom. This was a great memorial piece! There was only one John Putman and I’m so glad I got to know him at least a little bit. Loving thoughts are with you both.

  28. gardengirl39 says:

    What a beautiful tribute to your Dad, Johnnie! He sounds like a wonderful man and you were really blessed to have had such a terrific father. I am sending my condolences to you and Steve and will prayer that you will be comforted with the many wonderful memories you have of your Dad. R.I.P., John.

  29. Lori Lamberger says:

    Johnnie & Steve,
    So sorry for your loss. This was such a nice memorial you wrote about your Dad.

  30. John F. Maier says:

    Johnnie, So sorry for your loss!!  I’ve lost my parents too! I know it’s hard! I’m from Joliet originally ; however became a transplant to SE Wisconsin in the late “80’s for employment!  I used to listen to you & Steve Mon ~ Friday coming home from work It was about an hour drive & sometimes would sit in front of my house listening to something you both had  going on…  Been retired for awhile & fall asleep watching TV now!!  I’ve kept  you in my email list, all of this time & watched you both from “a far”!!  You two worked GREAT together & kept me entertained &  informed on my long rides home!  May your Dad rest in peace and I hope you two continue to “keep  on keepin’ on…     John Maier

  31. Ron and Peggy Turpin says:

    So very sorry for your loss. We so enjoyed your Dad down at Horizon South. He would always stop by on his walks, or wave as he drove past to one of his many social engagements. He was the consummate gentlemen, always decked out in a sport coat or a nice shirt. They truly don’t make men like him any longer. Enjoy your beautiful memories of him.

  32. Mike Marschalk says:

    Sorry for the loss, and beautifully written, he is now remembered by many

    Peace and Love

    Mike Marschalk

  33. Susan says:

    May his memory always be a blessing for you. I feel as though I know him through your lovely words. And I will wear my most outlandish shoes in his honor.

  34. John says:

    So sorry for your loss, Johnnie. Excellent tribute.

  35. PattyJ says:

    Johnnie, thanks for introducing your Dad to us. Yes, we would’ve chatted and laughed together.

  36. Tom says:

    I love the red shoes.

  37. Renee Hughart says:

    A Beautiful Tribute to your Dad. Thank you for sharing it with me. August 16th is my Birthday. I will certainly remember your Daddy & yes, when I go into a grocery store (which i do not do often these Covid days). I will take the time to say hello to someone who is alone & maybe needs cheering up.

  38. Elizabeth Roth says:

    It’s always life changing to lose a parent, I lost mine in my thirties. Condolences to you Johnnie.

  39. Margaret A. Kramer says:

    Dearest Johnnie, I know how hard this has been to post this notice. How hard to have walked this path. And, how lucky you have been to have him in your life for so long. On those days, when out of the blue, you burst into tears, know if you reach out, anyone of us here in the vastness of Radioland will be there for you.

    Blessings be,

    Margaret Kramer Rapid City, Michigan

  40. Laurie & Doug Bruce says:

    With great sadness in reading the news about John , I had the pleasure of knowing John here at Horizon South for a number of years and shared many stories , John was always so amazed at 55 then I was retired from Ontario and spending our winters down there .A true Gentleman we had the opportunity of meeting and sharing with . Thank you John .

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