Calvin Bartlett left a special envelope as a parting gift to each of his grandchildren. In the envelope he enclosed a sum of money and a note instructing his loved ones to buy something special for themselves – something they’d remember him by. This gift brought his grandson, Brad O’Donnell, into our Studio. Here’s how our meeting went…
Us: “What brought you into the Peter Nappi Studio?”
Brad: “I had never been to the store but had heard about it from family & friends. And the boots were definitely on my list. But what actually brought me in was a gift from my grandfather. He had recently passed away and left each of his grandchildren a small sum of money and a note instructing us to buy something special for ourselves – something we’d remember him by. I knew immediately a pair of Peter Nappi boots were the perfect thing. You see my grandfather loved shoes. Being raised around the Depression, he was always very frugal, but always admired fine footwear. I felt he would approve my decision – and knew every time I wore them he’d feel a little closer to me. But when I walked into the Studio and saw the huge American flag, I knew without a doubt it was the perfect choice. My grandfather was a decorated WWII Marine. He was the last of 16 children, and having lost his mother in childbirth, he was raised by his siblings. When the war came around all his brothers enlisted. He was only 15 at the time so he lied and also enlisted. He often laughed and said he wasn’t even shaving yet.
Us: “He sounds like a pretty determined man.”
Brad: “Oh he was. He loved nothing more than hanging out with his grandchildren, but when he spoke about his service, he radiated courage, pride and selflessness. He considered it an honor and privilege to help his country. He was actually awarded a Presidential Citation for his extraordinary acts of heroism. He and one other soldier were the only survivors from a Battalion of 30. The other survivor tragically came face to face with a land mine and my grandfather applied a tourniquet to save his life. Shortly after he literally ran into 3 of his brothers on the beach. That was how his life was – full of challenges but everything always seemed to turn out positive. The fellow soldier he saved came to visit him every Christmas. They had a cup of coffee and he gave my grandfather a little present with a note saying “thank you for another year of life.” He was an extraordinary man, who loved the simple things in life.”
Us: “So he loved his Country, his family and great shoes. What other things was he passionate about?”
Brad: “Music! He loved music – especially country music. His favorite artist was Dolly Parton. He had a poster of her hanging in his home for over 20 years. That was another trait that tied us together – we both shared a great passion for music. When I announced at the age of 14 that I was going to be a professional bass player, I could almost feel his pride swell. There’s a quote from John Adams that always stuck with me: “I studied war so my children could study science, and my grandchildren could study art.” I really feel his service and sacrifices enabled me to build my life around music.”
Us: “So above all it sounds like family meant the most to him.”
Brad: “Oh yes, it was by far. Men of that generation were not typically the caregivers in the family. Unfortunately he lost his wife when their daughters were very young, so as was his nature, he stepped up and filled this role too. Ever eager to serve. He lived his whole life close to his daughters. He wouldn’t have it any other way. His last evening he spent with my mother. They enjoyed a special treat – a meal at Outback complete with a nice steak and blooming onion. They came home and sat on the back porch to watch the sun set. He closed his eyes and quietly slipped away. When the paramedics opened his shirt to administer CPR, they saw his tattoos from the service. Being fellow Marines, the immediately stood and saluted. There couldn’t have been be a more fitting way for him to go.”
Us: “You’ve described a beautiful person. We can see why he would be an inspiration to you.”
Brad: “He’s more than an inspiration. He’s someone I aspire to be like, for sure, but to me he seems almost super-human. Like Clark Kent and Superman, one minute I’d be talking to him about music and the next I’d see the sword from the Japanese solider he killed in hand to hand combat. He was so simple in so many was, but so complex just beneath the surface. I don’t think anyone could fill his footprints.”
And we don’t either. Thank you Brad, for allowing us to step inside the life of a great man who inspires you to pursue your passions to the fullest. We are so happy it brought you into our Studio as we are honored and changed by the life lived by your grandfather.
10 years ago I had the best meal in my life. It was Valentine’s Day 2003 and I was celebrating with my new boyfriend, whom my friends and I all referred to as “Guy Smiley”. He was always smiling. He made the best cioppino I’d ever tasted. But it was more then the food – it was the process. He told me how he chose the best tomatoes, how to chop onions without tears, how to slice the garlic just so. I really didn’t care; I just loved watching him in the kitchen. His grande smile somehow seemed to get even bigger, his eyes twinkled with life and I felt so special just to be around him.
Well it’s been 10 years and each Valentines gets better. Different, but better. We’ve moved 7 times, had 5 different jobs, cared for 3 great dogs and had one perfectly perfect little girl. The only constant we’ve had is that smile.
Life is a process. And if you’re as lucky as I have been, it’s filled with love.
Ti Voglio Bene!