Today, my world is a little less wonderful place, because my friend John left it. May I tell you about him?
I met John in 1991 – 22 years ago. I was hosting a morning show on a Classic Rock station in Sacramento, California. It was during the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. There was testimony from Anita Hill and discussion of a porn tape featuring a character named “Long Dong Silver.” I found that hysterically funny and had never heard of this guy.
I asked on the air if anyone had the video in question…I received no calls, but about an hour later a Sacramento County Sheriff Deputy walked into the radio station asking for me. I had no idea what he wanted but he asked my name and sounded all official and scary. He then broke into a broad grin and handed me a brown paper bag inside of which was the video of “Long Dong Silver” and a friendship was born!
John had an easygoing manner and had a fun sense of humor. He wasn’t one of those “jerk cops” that would screw with you. He once arrested a woman on charges of prostitution (this wasn’t her first arrest…far from it) but she was hungry and cooperative, so John drove her through a fast food drive through before taking her to jail.
John loved to play golf and he was good at it. We bonded during out time on the course, The last time we played was just before I moved to Dallas, in October of 2011. John and his wife, Cindy lived in the Sierra Foothills and raised Golden Retrievers. Cindy would take them to dog shows on weekends and won many a ribbon.
John was a gentle man but had a side to him that he guarded. He has seen things most of us never will. They give him nightmares. John was a Vietnam Vet. He rarely spoke of his time there, it was kept locked away.
His sense of humor led to my asking him to be a regular feature on the morning show. It was called “Ask The Cop” where listeners would send or call in with questions relating to law enforcement and John would answer them. He loved doing it, the Sheriff’s department looked it as positive PR and listeners found it entertaining. He was on once a week on a Friday and the first question was always a set up – we would tell the caller “Ask how many calories are in a jelly donut” John would always feign anger and snap his handcuffs at us.
In a blog I wrote earlier about Santa Letters, John was the officer that went along on those very first deliveries, giving up his time off to help keep us safe and bring joy to kids over Christmas. He was there every year.
John had a knack for catching bank robbers. He just happened to be in the right place at the right time. I guess that’s the hallmark of a good cop too.
Another day he was in the right place at the right time came when he was driving past a middle school. Something didn’t look right to his trained eye…so he stopped. He saw a smallish kid standing 20 feet from 4 terrified kids lined up against a handball court, the small kid had a revolver pointed at the kids. They had been bullying him and he was about to take his revenge.
When you are in a situation like that you get tunnel vision. John took advantage of this and approached the kid silently from an angle and he put his thumb between the hammer and the firing pin just as the kid pulled the trigger. He disarmed the kid and got him help.
That, folks, is a school shooting you never heard about…because it didn’t happen. John received a silver star for bravery for that. It was one of two he earned. Deputy John Garcia was a hero. He was also my friend.
I remember when I came out to him, he was one of the first people I called. He was surprised that his friend of 20 years was a woman but he took it in stride and it didn’t affect our friendship one bit. It took him a while to wrap his head around it, but he was so supportive and what mattered to him was, I was happy.
John had one child, a son. John Junior. Johnny was very successful on his own. John was so proud of him. Johnny lived nearby in the San Francisco Bay area. This past Christmas, Johnny and 2 friends were driving 6 Golden Retrievers to Oregon in a transport van. Near the California/Oregon border Johnny’s van was hit head-on by a semi. Johnny was killed instantly. His 2 friends and 3 of the dogs survived. John and Cindy were devastated.
The last time I saw John, I had driven out to California to drop some things off to my ex wife and stopped by to spend the afternoon with John. This was the first time he had seen me as a woman. He gave me a warm embrace and we sat at his kitchen table for hours just catching up.
On his pool table all spread out were personal effects and papers from Johnny’s estate, John was having to sort it all out. This was last June. John didn’t live to see Thanksgiving. He died on Sunday, November 24th. Doctors say it was Pancreatic Cancer. I know better. He died of a broken heart.
Rest in peace sweet friend. God knows, you’ve earned your place at the right hand of God.