Gifts from the Heart

Updated April 16, 2016

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While I was serving a tour of duty at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, my boss was promoted to Lieutenant Commander and he had just completed twenty-five years of service. He and his wife decided to have a small celebration and invite members of our department to join them. Before the party, I would not have been considered a fan of this guy. Shortly before the party was to happen my wife asked me if I was going to give him a present.

I said, “No.”

She said, “You have to.”

I said, “No, I don't even like him.”

She replied, “It doesn't matter, it’s just good manners.”

So, I thought about what I could give him and came up with an idea. I took the paper center of a toilet paper roll and covered it with a navy blue paper. I wrapped two and a half gold stripes around it, to represent the lieutenant commander rank, and placed a gold star above the stripes. It resembled the blue sleeve of a naval officer's jacket. I placed the constructed arm on a small gold pedestal. On top of the arm I mounted a gold twenty-five number. On the pedestal, I use dry transfer letters that said, “Congratulation Bill”

I learned a lot the night of the party. For one, Bill and his wife were super wonderful people. They really knew how to throw a party. It was far from wild, but very entertaining and enjoyable. Of all the gifts he received that night, I believe, he like mine the best. We became very good friends and were still in contact as he moves into his nineties.

I learned things aren't always what they seem. Personal gifts are valued far more than expensive ones. Be patient before forming a judgment. My wife and I started making gifts for people we cared about, when we could.

Additionally. I read the book "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten" by Robert Fulghum and if my memory hasn't failed me there was one story about a gift. A dad was working on some business matters and was quite frustrated and irritable when in walked his very young daughter carrying a small box, with a ribbon around it. She announced that she had a gift for him and handed to him. He took and opened it, only to find the box was empty. A bit perturbed he said to his daughter, "The box is empty." She replied, "Oh no daddy, I put lots of love, hug, and kisses in it." Needless to say he was somewhat overwhelmed. Again I'm not sure if the story went exactly like this but it does convey the message: The value of a gift is not necessary the cost but rather what the giver is really giving.





Of all the gifts I received over the years this one is my favorite. My granddaughter was 2, 3 or 4 years old when this was made. It was a Father's Day present from my daughter and granddaughter that they made in the early 1980s. I wore it everywhere and it never failed to get comments. People would walk up to me and say things like: Where did you get that made, that's really is great, your kids are really creative .... I still have and wear it from time-to-time. And it still gets comments.













To make our holiday cards more personal we had our kids make them. We did this several times in various ways. The last card which depicts a dog sitting is actually a true representation of the couples dog and how he would sit. We used string one year and pasted images another. One year we used a lot of cotton and miscellaneous materials. The value was two fold. We spent time as a family doing a project we all enjoyed and the recipients also enjoyed our special cards.




I sorry the photos are a bit faded. When the Commanding Officer of the unit I was attached to retired, I made these two posters. One was a proclamation and the other was command plaque. On the command plaque poster everyone that was currently assigned to the command signed it. When the get together -- where I presented them to him -- ended my CO told me that the posters were two of the best gifts he'd gotten, that he really liked and would treasure them. The images on the proclamation were typical tools that we used in doing our work. The symbols on the plaque were the Naval designation of the area of expertise we represented.

The Proclamation read:

To all who view these presents: Greeting, Know Ye that “Captain WRL” Has served most successfully demonstrating exception understanding, devotion and leadership as a member of the Board of Inspection and Survey Pacific from 22 June 1971 to 31 December 1973. He has journeyed forth in the pursuit of his trials, inspections, and surveys of Pacific Fleet Ships and participated in such memorable campaigns Casa De Vallejo Crusade, Marine Railway Mishap and Yokosuka Dry Dock Dodging*.

Thus, having superlatively achieving his mission, we take great pride and pleasure in proclaiming him forever an honorary member in the very best standing and that he shall henceforth be entitled to all courtesy, respect, and privileges, including sitting next to annoying people on airplanes, waiting for transportation, and listening to immortal porpoise jokes.

Further, on this occasion, we wish to convey our deepest, most sincere wishes for a successful and happy future.


I seemed that regardless of our seating arrangement on trips, our CO was always the person in the group that ended up sitting next to annoying people or a crying kid. The crying kid was on the Yokosuka flight -- it was a very long flight. Waiting for transportation is self-explanatory. Immortal Porpoises joke, which I won't tell now, is unusual.




These flowers were hand crafted "Origami" and took extensive work over several weeks. They were made for a very special loved one.

When I find my slides, someday, I have several more to post. A two foot pipe and match, a record plaque, Foam rubber bowling ball with pins signed by all that were part of the group.

If anyone would like to post a gift as above you can email me the picture with you comments --- email: gifts@pastuart.com



I made the Paint Palette as a departing gift for a good friend when he left Gitmo. He's the guy that got me started. I choose a palette because he is a man of many talents; painting bei;ng one of them. In each spot that would be for a paint color I inserted things that were appropriate to his stay at Gitmo and some things we did together. For reference, each paint spot is two inches in diameter. Starting with the bottom left spot and working clockwise they are:

The six brushes where made with hair from my wife (the long one), our three kids, our pet dog and mine.






The bowling ball and pin were made by my wife. They were made for a special friend when they were transferred to a Norfolk station. My wife had all the department personnel and other friends sign the bowling pin. She also made a memory book. Typically, most people used images of what would be extravagant living on the Guantanamo base, actually anywhere; like mansions, personal jets and a yacth. My wife took the opposite tack. Filled the book with images of worse places and things. By accident the cover was put on the back. So she labelled it, "Your Backward-Upside-Down Memory Book."

At the going away party I arranged, I made the below name plates. Each name plate had a representation of something the person like to do. It a good thing I took a picture. I was going to collect them afterwards but everyone what theirs as a keep sake.


We received a letter from the daughter of a dear friend, informing us that her dad was going to be ninety. She wants his birthday to be very special, so she has asked his friends, near and far, old and new, to write a note of their association with him, gather memorabilia they might have, such as picture, and send it to her. She will assemble it into a package and present it to him on his birthday. Wow, what a great idea. The letter I wrote is below:

February 2014

Dearest Bill

Just to let you know how it all got started for us: When I just began serving with you at Fleet Training Group, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, you were promoted to Lieutenant Commander and had just completed twenty-five years of service. Thelda and you decided to have a small celebration and invite members of our department to join you in celebrating. Before the party I would not have been considered one of your fans.

Shortly before the party was to happen, Pat asked, “Are you going to give him a gift?”

I said, “No.”

She said, “You have to.”

I said, “No, I don't even like him.”

She replied, “It doesn't matter, it’s just good manners.”

So I thought about what I could give you and came up with my idea to make something. I took the paper center of a toilet paper roll (fitting for my view of you at the time) and covered it with a navy blue paper. I wrapped two and a half gold stripes around it, to represent the lieutenant commander rank, and placed a gold star above the stripes. It resembled the blue sleeve of a naval officer's jacket. I placed the constructed arm on a small gold pedestal. On top of the arm I mounted a gold twenty-five number. On the pedestal I used dry transfer letters and said, “Congratulations Bill.”

I learned a lot the night of the party. For one, Thelda and you were super wonderful people; not at all what I expected. You guys really knew how to throw a party. It was far from wild but very entertaining and enjoyable. Of all the gifts you received that night, you appeared to have liked mine immensely, perhaps a little bias perspective on my part. Thankfully we became very good friends.

I also learned things aren't always what they seem. Personal gifts are valued far more than expensive ones. Be patient and gather facts before forming a judgment; other peoples views are often based on envy and jealousy. Both Pat and I started making gifts for people we cared about when we could.

In a life time, most of us will interact with several thousand people, have a few hundred acquaintances and, perhaps, fifty or so we call friends. A rarity is to have a friend that truly changes and influences your life. For Pat and I, you are one of those people. During the short period that we were close friends with Thelda and you, we grew and learned a lot. Your creativity sparked our awakening to do things we would not have done. The Paint Palette, hand made holiday cards, square dancing and the right way to throw a party are a few.

I envied, in a very positive way, Thelda’s and your charismatic personalities when interacting with others in a non-military environment. Your leadership style was tough but fair. You expected people to do their job; unfortunately many didn’t want to and resented having to do so.

Another very important lesson I learned from you was about standards and performance:

During one of our conversations, I asked you “How did FTG manage to get the best enlisted personnel?”

To which you said, “FTG doesn’t, they’re just average.”

Puzzled, I replied, “Then why do they perform so much better than others on the ships?”

You simply said, “We set a higher standard and hold them to it.”

I guess the corollary would be: People only rise to the level expected.

Since that day I have committed myself to meet the highest standards in personal and professional life and expected those that worked for me to do the same.

A couple of other things I won’t go into were about accuracy in documents and how one of our “Officer and Gentleman” colleagues was cheating on his taxes. If I sit and think, a taxing task for me, I would probably come up with a few more.

In preparing this letter I learned that not all great people do heroic deeds, accumulate great wealth, and the like. Great people, such as you, leave a legacy to be proud of and touch us in a spiritual way; albeit for Pat and I during a very short period of time. I know that you will receive a copious amount of letters and memorabilia that will reflect on how you touched us all.

As I have said, if I sit and think, I’m sure I could add more. I want you to know that I used the word “Great” in a most heartfelt way. Suffice it to say in closing, that in the time we spent with Thelda and you, the values you imparted on Pat and I were long lasting and positive; we are better people for knowing you.

It is our fondest wish that you have the best possible ninetieth birthday and that every subsequent birthday is even better.

Love, Art

P.S. One of my life goals is to run a marathon when I am One Hundred. I expect you to be on the sideline cheering me on as I cross the finish line.


When the Engineering Department head was transfered, I made the below gifts.


I'm sorry the writing isn't clear. Across the top is "Mobile Auto Engineering Records." Mobile was the name of our ship. The singers were, "Alpha and Bravo Boiler" boys. Those were the names of our main steam boilers. The song was "Come On Baby* Light My Fires." *Vince. We had a lot of trouble with the fires going out unexpectedly. The plant was supposed to be fully automated. The RPM 113 Represents the ship max speed. The running time 115 was our hull number.

The match measures about two feet. He always had his pipe with him and used wooden matches to light the tobacco which, like the boilers, was contantly going out.


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