Wednesday, September 05, 2012

John Bartlett 1947-2012

 

My dad was a hero. I don't mean a hero in the sense that most dads are heroes for their young sons and daughters, though he certainly was that as well. I mean he was an honest to god all American hero. My dad flew Cobra gunships in Vietnam. He was the kind of man that stepped forward when everyone else stepped back. He volunteered for the missions that no one else wanted. My dad was the pilot the Blues and Scouts wanted flying cover when the shit hit the fan. They knew he wouldn't flinch. He would fly into danger to help them get clear of danger. Once upon a time my dad wasn't John Bartlett, he was "Bloody Bart". He was a hero.

When I was four my dad took me bear hunting. I shouldn't be able to remember much, but I do. I can clearly see the marshy field from our spot on the edge of the tree line. I recall the color of the twilight, and I can feel the rough denim of my dads jeans as I slipped my hands into his back pockets to keep up with his long legs. Mostly though, I can hear the boom of his 30-06. We shot a bear that night, and as I sit here writing my ears are still ringing. I feel as if they have been ringing since my mom called Tuesday night to tell me he was gone.

How many young boys can say they have walked the wild of the Kootenai River? My dad took me. He was the engineer on a work train out of Libby, MT. As such, he spent four days inching along the tracks while the crews cleaned and repaired sections...one tie at a time. In the morning, he would run me out with him on the big locomotive and drop me off somewhere on the river. There I spent the day...me, my fly rod, a half dozen royal coachman's and the trout of the Kootenai. As evening approached I listened for the whistle of the train and waited on the tracks for my dad to come and get me.

His heart had been failing for years now. Last year the doctor told him his ejection fraction (the measure of how much blood your heart is pumping) was less than 20% of a healthy person. Rather than ponder all that he could no longer do with only one fifth of a heart, my dad shot back at the doctor and the world "IT IS A GOOD THING MY BALLS ARE FIVE TIMES THE SIZE OF MY HEART"!

My dad lived his life. He loved his life. He went at everything full throttle and never slowed down. He is gone now, and the world is undeniably a darker place. I am not a religious person, but much like my dad I believe in a higher power. And just like him, I see that power in the wind through the trees and the waves in the water. So I know where to look for him. No one that met him could avoid being touched by him, so he surrounds us all. I see him in Elia's quiet determination. I see him in JJ's fierce competitive spirit. I see him today when I am down, and I will see him in myself tomorrow...when I get back up. I know where to find him and the next time I am walking my favorite flat, I know I can count on him to give me a little extra ripple on the water so I don't spook that big fish. And if I listen real hard after I blow the shot...I bet I can hear him laugh.

Dad, we thank you, we love you, we miss you.

 

63 comments:

Just call me Gamby said...

John, i am so sorry for your loss.
mqy he rest in peace. He sounded like a wonderful man.

Doug Korn, PFS Fly Tyer said...

So sorry for your loss... my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

Stealth said...

He sounded like a great guy and a wonderful father. My condolences to you and your family.

Stealth said...

He sounded like a great guy and a wonderful father. My condolences to you and your family.

Blake said...

a great tribute to him, best regards to your family

Ty said...

Very sorry to hear that, John. Our prayers are with you.

Brent Wilson said...

So sorry to hear about your loss, John. He sounds like a great guy.

e.m.b. said...

So very sorry for your family's loss...you're all in my thoughts...

Mr. P. said...

Thanks for the email John. I'm sorry for your loss. I was looking forward to fishing with your dad again this summer. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.

Mary balsley (Gilliland) said...

So sorry for your loss John- that was a beautiful tribute to your dad. My love and thoughts go out to your family.

MOMSNext--SLC, UT said...

What an amazing tribute John. Thanks for sharing more of your dad with the world. Our hearts and prayers are with you all.

Abalicious said...

What a beautifully written remembrance. He will be sorely missed.
So sorry for your loss.

trashfisher said...

John I am very lucky to have had the chance to meet your dad. Even though we only fished one day together I admired him at the end of it. You did him great justice in your heartfelt and thoughtful words. My thoughts and condolences are with you and your family.

newsfromtheledge said...

So sorry for your loss John. Heartfelt condolences from me and everyone at CarpPro.

Tony

newsfromtheledge said...

So sorry for your loss John. Heartfelt condolences from me and everyone at CarpPro.

Tony

christopher said...

John, I'm so sad to hear the news. Your dad was a great man, and your eulogy was beautiful.
The world will be a darker place for a while, but you're right to look for him and his legacy in your kids, knowing he will live on.
Go hug JJ and Elia, and know he is there.

ChrisO

Brian J. said...

Sorry to hear the news man, thanks for sharing this with us. God Bless.

William Hargett said...

Hi John,

Been a very very long time since we played B-ball together and I'm sorry that this first message after so many years would be one of condolences.

I didn't know your father well, but I do remember seeing him yell at the ref at one of your games in Hamilton. He was a kind of legend in that respect.

So sorry for your loss.

Bill Hargett

Tim Gerke said...

Very sorry to hear. My condolences...

Donald Stolte said...

Thanks for sharing. I have spent many hours with John up and down the tracks. Talked about all the fish he caught and yet to catch. The many bucks he had yet to stalk. Spent many days talking about life; and he had lots to share. I spent one glorious trip in the Belly River for 3 days with John. Our evenings by the fire with Whiskey and Bull will never be forgotten.

John Montana said...

Thanks everyone. We appreciate the support and love during this tough time. My dad touched a lot of lives, and will be missed.

Cameron Mortenson said...

Rest In Peace.

Alex Landeen said...

My condolences, John.

Gregg said...

John,

I wish your father and mine could have met, many things in common. I wish he didn't have a heart problem. I wish you still had him to look forward to visits with. I'm so sorry for your loss.

God Bless, Gregg

Pete said...

John, I'm sorry to hear of your loss. You paid a great tribute to your Dad with this post

Ronald said...
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Ronald said...
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Ronald said...

A hero indeed! And he will be hugely missed. I owe my life to John "Bloody Bart" Bartlett, more than once. He was frequently my Cobra gunship wing man on many Vietnam and Cambodia missions when we both flew with Apache Troop 1/9th Cavalry in Song Be. Putting long range recon patrols deep into enemy controlled area, extracting special forces, or rescuing downed aircrews under enemy fire-- when the situation demanded bold, precise and timely gunship air cover, there was no one better to get iron on the bad guys. Yet, in the off hours, it was obvious his heart was big, and perhaps even then, fragile. As a father and grandfather of three, and alive only because of the courage of Apache aircrew colleagues - which he exemplified with his remarkable courage-- I'm so glad that in the intervening years since Vietnam he had a loving family, and a son, like you. God Bless your family and his soul, which no doubt continues to "fly cover", above, for all of us...forever.
Ron Glass, Apache 33

John Montana said...

Thanks so much Ron. When I say my dad was a hero...I mean it. Picking up a book off of a supermarket shelf and reading about your dad as a young boy is a surreal experience. I am so thankful he was able to reconnect with all of you over the past years. Thank you for your kind words.

Mr. P. said...

Ron, your comments are moving to be sure.

The Larkins said...

John,
I haven't see you or your Dad for a long time, but I have fond memories of him when we were kids. He was a great man and I am sorry for your loss.
Scott Larkin

TKIBOSS said...

Beautifully sad! Thank you for sharing such beautiful pieces of your father.

Glen the Rotorhead said...
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Glen the Rotorhead said...

I share the Bartlett family's loss with both tears and a smile. Bart could always put a smile on my face. He relished the "Bloody Bart" moniker, but there was way more to him than that. Your father's heart was down to 20% because he gave so much of it to so many of us, so many times. Now he's back to 200%+ like the old Bart and out catching the big ones. And judging by your writing, he's got you to carry on at this end.

Warmest regards, Glen, aka Ski, Apache 35, Apache 22, Hey You

Jim D said...

John,
To me also, your Dad was a hero and bigger than life. I had only seventeen days with him after we were shot down near Song Be, but he made a large impression on me. I spent the rest of my tour in Vietnam and have spent the rest of my tour in life trying to live up to the honor of being Apache 21X that day. In the Army, and in life, leaders are leaders, regardless of rank. Your father was a leader. As I said in the book, people liked doing what "Bloody Bart" asked them to do.

God bless you all,

Jimmy Dulin

Kregg Jorgenson said...

John, Your father was a true hero and on 17 June 1970 he, once again, showed why when we members of Apache Troop, 1st of the 9th 'Blues' Recon platoon went into Cambodia to rescue a five man LRRP/Ranger team that was missing in action. One had made it back to safety and we had managed to find two of the wounded when we were hit by NVA gunfire as the enemy tried to surround us. Your Dad in his cobra gunship roared in and bought us time to find cover and return fire. He then flew pass after pass to protect us. He was one of our best in Apache Troop and a hero in the best and most honest sense of the word. He will be missed but he will be remembered. God bless you all.

Kregg Jorgenson, former Sergeant, Apache Troop, 1st of the 9th, 'Blues.'

Nathan Moore said...

Well said. My dad also served in Vietnam, in fact I was born in Fort Polk Louisiana while he was still over there.I dug through a box of slides a couple years ago and laughed when I saw wires hanging from the ceiling of his truck over there. I said Dad someone jacked your stereo in Vietnam hahaha. He said "Son, that is the linkage from the shifter, I hit a mine that day and it blue the stick clean through the roof. It was pretty quiet for a while and I put that box of slides back in the closet where it STILL sits today. I consider myself blessed to have had my dad come home and be able to take me fishing and to introduce me to what eventually became one of my life's most passionate pursuits chasing swimming things all over Montana. I still get to go fishing with my dad and know he won't be around forever. Stories like yours helps all of us to appreciate WHAT we have WHILE we have it just a bit more. THANK YOU!!!

Nathan Moore said...

Well said. My dad also served in Vietnam, in fact I was born in Fort Polk Louisiana while he was still over there.I dug through a box of slides a couple years ago and laughed when I saw wires hanging from the ceiling of his truck over there. I said Dad someone jacked your stereo in Vietnam hahaha. He said "Son, that is the linkage from the shifter, I hit a mine that day and it blue the stick clean through the roof. It was pretty quiet for a while and I put that box of slides back in the closet where it STILL sits today. I consider myself blessed to have had my dad come home and be able to take me fishing and to introduce me to what eventually became one of my life's most passionate pursuits chasing swimming things all over Montana. I still get to go fishing with my dad and know he won't be around forever. Stories like yours helps all of us to appreciate WHAT we have WHILE we have it just a bit more. THANK YOU!!!

John Montana said...

Thanks so much for all the comments everyone. Keep posting stories and remembrances of my dad, we plan to print these out and display everyone's thoughts on Monday.

To the vets and Apache troop...you were all so important to my dad, and knew a part of him that we only glimpsed at times. It means a lot to me, my sisters and my mom that you would take the time to share. He loved you all.

MINI MAC said...

Hello John Your Mom said I am not suppose to use the head of the Rat story,although it did just raise a large smile on my face.Your Dad was an extraordinary Hero in the truest sense of the word.I led the flight on 17 June 1970 and the weather was so bad we had to fly all the way to Laos to find a way down through the clouds,we ended up hovering down roads.in Laos to get back into Cambodia and find the missing LRPS I remember looking out my window and their was John hovering down a road in a country we weren't suppose to be in,in a Cobra gunship That was much more elective from altitude,and a sitting duck at this altitude,and I remember thinking Wow I think he really is crazier than I am.But that was your Dad he flew lower than most, always in extreme danger just so he could cover his low bird better,it was a great comfort knowing Blood Bart was covering you on a Scout mission,your odds of survival just went up.Not taking anything away from the rest of our gunship pilots they were all nuts.I cherish the memory's of your Dad and I getting a (little)drunk and singing at the NCO club,man he could sing,good thing to I cant carry a tune.I remember writing to him when I got home and telling him I was coming back and the return letter telling me to stay Home.and I did he was still looking out for his low bird.Your father was always my friend and my bother and he will always be Remembered and missed.Yours Always Apache 11 Mini Mac

John Montana said...

Bill, the rat head story is one of my favorites! I say let er rip...I will just not tell my mom to,check these messages! (now that sounds like my dad!)

MINI MAC said...

OK John For You.We were all sitting around a table in our makeshift officer club playing cards when a guy came running in with a Rat wiggling on the end of a stick,he had just stabbed it in the shitter with the comment of I got me a kill I got me a kill.John always the joker yells he aint dead yet at that point he reached over grabbed the Rat, and proceeded to bite the head off,he then spit it on the table where a whole bunch of guys started throwing up.We had stewed tomatoes for lunch and a big chunk of previously eaten stewed tomato landed on a LTs CAV patch,John (in his ultimate wisdom)Said hey you cant defile a CAV patch He then proceeded to swallow said stewed tomato (gagging several times ) that was the end of me.I lost it And to this day 43 years latter I still cant eat a stewed tomato. Thanks Bart.I just bet hes up there laughing his ass off.OK John don't tell.P.S. One of the last times we came over we called your Dad to tell him we were getting close He replies that's great could you PLEASE stop and get me a pack of smokes and hide them in the wood pile so Billie wont find them.I think your Dad just liked getting me in trouble.Your Friend Mini Mac

John Montana said...

And that is my dad.

Thanks bill...

Ron Black said...

I have many fond memories of “Bloody Bart” and can honestly say that I don’t think I would be here today if it weren’t for him and his skill and daring. I can still hear him say over the radio “don’t slow down, pair is on the way” when taking fire. He would give everything he had to protect and bring home anyone that was down. As many have said his heart was big and he gave all he had. I am honored to have known and served with him.

Mark VanDehey said...

Your dad sounds like he was a one in a million guy, John. You are a lucky man to have been raised by him. Again, condolences from my family to yours.

Mark VanDehey said...

Your dad sounds like he was a one in a million guy, John. You are a lucky man to have been raised by him. Again, condolences from my family to yours.

JM said...

John, you have my most sincere and profound sympathies.

John Montana said...

Thanks everyone...it has really been astounding to see the love and support poured forth. Reading the emails and comments has been uplifting for my sisters, my mom, dad's brothers and sisters and myself. We are posting the comments at the service on Monday, along with photos, poems my dad wrote etc. I do hope to see many of you there.

David McKenzie said...

Condolences to you and your family John.

6a9902e8-fb69-11e1-81b4-000bcdcb5194 said...

I was a childhood friend of Johns. He was arguably the most talented guy in our class of 1966, both musically and athletically. Plus he had the most dynamic personality. He will be missed greatly but all those who were fortunate enough to know him. My thoughts are with his loving Billie and family.

6a9902e8-fb69-11e1-81b4-000bcdcb5194 said...

I was a childhood friend of Johns. He was arguably the most talented guy in our class of 1966, both musically and athletically. Plus he had the most dynamic personality. He will be missed greatly but all those who were fortunate enough to know him. My thoughts are with his loving Billie and family.

Matt said...

John, I'm so sorry to hear about your loss but heartened to hear about what a great man and father he was to you, and the love his family has for him.

Ian Anderson said...

I am very sorry to hear of your loss. I lost my father almost twelve years ago. Reading your post brought back many thoughts and feeling about him. The pain does get better and I am happy to say he will always be with you.

Wendy Berrell said...

You know where to look for him.

Been trying to imagine what you are going through; this loss. So sorry; he'll be missed. I'll think of him often.

Jane S. Kohler said...

I first met John Bartlett when I was three years old. He, Mike Jenson and I were sent out to play while our mothers were at a Tupperware party. We had other parties over the years.

That was the first of many memories of my classmate and long time friend. It saddens me to know that I won't see him next time I am back in Whitefish.

My prayers and positive thoughts go out to you, you mother, siblings and children. We are all blessed to have known him, you have many great memories, and you write well.

Jane Schwartz Kohler, Class of 1966, WHS

Barry said...

John,

Sorry to learn of your dad's passing. They say time heals all things. I hope it comes sooner rather than later for you.

Unknown said...

Thank you for your wonderful comments about John's dad and my husband of 42 years. You cannot know how much you bless us with your memories and your loving words. He loved people, and he loved life. Family and friends were so important to him. We will always miss him, but you lift us up in our sadness. Thank you! Billie

Unknown said...

Thank you for your wonderful comments about John's dad and my husband of 42 years. You cannot know how much you bless us with your memories and your loving words. He loved people, and he loved life. Family and friends were so important to him. We will always miss him, but you lift us up in our sadness. Thank you! Billie

Brett Hartley said...

Your Dad was so nice to me after his friend Jerry Boyle told me how to contact him via email after reading Jerry's book Apache Sunrise. And it was a pleasure to get to know him through email correspondance not just the person in the book Bloody Bart who amazed me with his bravery, but as the man he was after his time serving our country. He told me about his family and even shared a story that his son wrote about him while attending college in Minnesota. The same college that my Dad graduated from. We discussed and argued politics via email and talked about his fishing as well. I had not gotten an email from John in a while and now I know why. And my heart is heavy for his family and friends missing him. I will miss him as well. My thoughts and prayers are with his family
Brett Hartley

Ed Ban said...

I was a classmate of your father's in flight school. When we both came home from Vietnam, we were flight instructors at Ft Rucker, Alabama. Your father was a wonderful friend and lived life to the fullest.
He put more than a couple of smiles on everybody's face and was every inch the HERO you knew. I'm sadden to read of his passing and send my sincere sympathy.
Sincerely,
Ed Ban

Lach Brown said...

I was also a flight school classmate and later John's roommate at Cobra School in Savannah. The first impression John made on me was when we were brand new WOCs (Warrant Officer Candidates) and we had our first social event (suppose to teach us military decorum in a social setting) They had imported some beauties from the Denton Womans College so naturally we were interested. Well John was appointed MC and opened with the following "Hi I'm John Bartlett and I'm from Montana where men are men and sheep are nervous" Those 5X balls were always getting him noticed. The rat story is very famous but it wasn't the first head of an animal he bit off, did he tell you about the fish in Panama City? Your Dad was bald even back then and our other room mate, Jim Nabors (KIA VN 2/20th),swore they just kept me around because I had hair. He was a fisherman back then and we chartered a boat and caught so many seabass we went around to the whole motel we were living in and invited everybody to a huge fish fry.That's the kind of guy he was, memorable even after 45 years, bigger then life in some ways, a great man and a great friend

John Montana said...

Just wanted to thank everyone again for your thoughts and remembrances. We all miss dad everyday, it is nice to know he was so loved.

Thanks you all.

William Henry said...

Condolences to you and your family.


Bill