My dad John McCarthy, Jr. was born November 1, 1921 in Jericho, Mississippi, and he died in Memphis, Tennessee on May 8th, 2011; Mother Day (176 days shy of his 90th birthday). He got to see his grandchildren Hanna Mildred and John Marvel grow up as he lived with me and my loving wife Kim. He was 42 when he got me and I was 42 when my son John Marvel was born. I've come to realize that I was raised by grandparents as well as grandparents.


John McCarthy with mother Julia - circa 1966

My dad lived most of his life in the twentieth century, the American century. He was a boy during the Depression. He owned his first car when you didn't have to have a driver's license. He saw Elvis at the Tupelo Fair and Dairy Show in September, 1956. He remembered where he was and what he was doing when Kennedy and King were shot, and I remember being with him when a man walked on the moon. And then I started taking up a lot of his time. My dad participated and helped define the Greatest Generation.


Anna Laura, John, Hazel, Taylor, Francis

When my dad was a boy, he got cut with briars, and stickers, and rusted nails, running around barefoot in plowed fields and country roads. In 1931, when Dad was ten years old, he saw FRANKENSTEIN at the Ritz Theater in Baldwyn, Mississippi. Then he had to walk home alone in the dark on a gravel road. He told me he passed a man on the road that night that was just as scared as my father.


John McCarthy at Camp Shelby - Rec Room

On April 5th, 1936 when my Dad was 14, he witnessed the great cyclone that wiped out most of Tupelo. A year later, at Cedar Hill HIgh School, a teacher named Dobbin Kellum hit my Dad on the back of the head with a ruler for talking. Dad said he was innocent, grabbed the teachers ruler, broke it over his knee, and quit school for good in the 10th grade.

The Hub was a grocery store that became a gathering place for young people "in-between crops". In December, 1941, Dad was playing checkers there when he heard about Pearl Harbor. Pretty soon after that, he was drafted into the Army and went to Camp Shelby where he fought mock battles with Japanese-born soldiers.


When they needed poor Mississippi boys to stop bullets at Anzio Beach, my dad could not go. The arches in his feet had broken down in boot camp. Lucky break. Many of my Dad's friends were killed. So they sent my Dad to guard SS Troops (not just Nazi's but the worst ones) in a prison camp in Chatam, Alabama.

Near the end, when it came time for the Battle of the Bulge, they were looking for anybody to go fight. It didn't matter if your feet were crooked. But that particular week my Dad had a 102 degree fever. Lucky break. And that's how my father stayed alive in the Army as a Corporal for 4 years, 5 months, and 6 days.


Near the end of the War he married my Mom WInnie Mildred Jordan.

I want to quote my parent's wedding notice that appeared in the Baldwyn News on November 5th, 1945.

"... Mr. and Mrs. George (and Sallie) Jordan of Guntown, announce the marriage of their daughter, Mildred, to Pfc. John McCarthy, Jr., son of Mr. and Mrs. Jack (and Julia) McCarthy of Guntown. The wedding took place Monday evening, November 5th in the parsonage of the Baptist Church of Baldwyn, Miss. With the Reverend E.C. Edwards reading the double ring ceremony. The bride wore a soldier blue suit with black accessories. Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Roberts were the only attendants. Immediately after the wedding ceremony, a reception was given at the home of the parents of the groom. The bride is at home with her parents while her husband has returned to camp in Alabama."


My parents were married 49 years. Last Friday, May 6th, was the 16th anniversary of my Mom's death and my Dad passed two days later.

My parents couldn't have children of their own and I was adopted by them. They turned the corner right here at the crossroads of this church with me in the backseat of a '55 Holiday Oldsmobile, bringing me home from the hospital seven days after I was born on May 29th, 1963.


Midred Mike & John 1964

My Mom was adopted as well. My Dad was actually surrounded by adopted people. He took to this notion of how love stronger than blood, because he was already incredibly open-minded.

I don't think my Dad knew just how open-minded he was.


John and Midred wedding photo 1945

If I wanted to stay up and watch Johnny Carson, my parents would always let me. One night I made my Dad get up at 3 a.m. to watch "Incredible Shrinking Man", and he did it. even if he had to get up at 5 a.m. and go to work. They were very over-protective of me yet they would never make me do anything I didn't want to do.


My Dad was not a great reader or writer, but when obsession turned to comic books, my Dad encouraged it. Every Friday evening on payday, I would meet him down the road, he would have bought my first comic book of the weekend. I'd hop on the hood of the car and ride back up to the house with a Tarzan or an Archie.

When he told me "Mike, do not build that three-story treehouse because you will fall to your death," me and Phillip Sawyer ignored just about everything he said, and then my Dad ignored me building it. He bought me just about everything his factory working check could afford.

Later on, when I asked Dad to be in my movies and do and say silly things, he never quite understood, but he always agreed. he played a bus driver in "Damselvis, Daughter of Helvis". He played a farmer who sees a UFO in "The Sore Losers". In "Teenage Tupelo", he and my Mom appear in D'Lana's catfight scene at Johnnie's Drive-In. Dad gets upset because he can't get a coffee refill. Later on, Dad appeared (along with his grand daughter Hanna Mildred) in the Buddy Gray directed Willowz video "Making Certain".

More and more, I just had my Dad play himself because he was a character. He was the twentieth century.


He loved hanging out with my friends, no matter how "strange" they were to him. And all these, strangers became my Dad's surrogate family, especially after he moved in with us in 2003. Many of you drove down from Memphis today and I really appreciate it - and I know my Dad has got a big smile on his face. Some folks could not be with us, cause they live too far away. The godfather of our kids, Emmy Collins, who met my Dad in 1996, sent these thoughts. This message comes to us by way of the Mohave desert.,,

"...Some reflections on 'Big John' (or "Paw Paw") McCarthy. I'll always remember with great fondness, Big John McCarthy's friendliness, entertaining tales, ("Dog River Bottom", anybody?) and often bawdy jokes.

John also had a somewhat mystical aspect to him as he carried "magic rocks" in his pockets (and sometimes taping them to his knee!) to combat "arthur" (or 'arthritis').

"Big John" also had a fiercely independent spirit ( a real fighter). A few years ago as we were discussing God and the Great Beyond, sitting in his living room, he told me (pointing upward) that he had a special relationship with the "Big Guy" and wasn't worried about death. Rest in Glorious Peace, Big John McCarthy.

Love now, Always and Forever,
Emmy and Jacobine."

My Dad often told me that when his father Jack was dying in the VA hospital in Memphis, he told my Dad that "he wasn't doing anything that my Dad wouldn't have to do."


John's father, Paw Jack. circa 1950s

There were three things that my Dad loved to talk about.

My Dad loved talking about World War 2, His adventure at Dog River Bottom has been documented on at least two video tapes. This is where he got lost on a detail while guarding German prisoners and had to find his way back to camp. He told me about fights that he got into in cantina's, and how lonely he was, being gone from home. And even though he had not travelled overseas, or saw combat, his experience was unique and as genuine as anyone else's.


Danny & John

My Dad loved to gamble in Tunica, Mississippi. He wasn't big-time, cause he didn't have much money. He loved the quarter machines in particular. And I don't know if you're supposed to talk about his in church, but several years ago, he won five thousand dollars and gave it to me, because that's how he was. And I bought my first Apple computer with my Dad's kindness and generosity.

The other thing that my Dad loved more than anthing were magic rocks. They gave him comfort and eased his pain when medicine did not. When we found out just how sick he was, he (at first) refused the morphine and turned to the rocks. In particular, he felt strongest about his "moon rock" which somehow he believed came from outer space because of the formations and the feel of the rock. I am burying the moon rock with my Dad but we are keeping the rest because we might need them.


John & son Mike - circa 1963

So if ever wrote a book on my Dad, it would be called "World War Tunica". My duaghter Hanna suggested we should call it "World War Tunica Rocks". We use to tell Dad this, and he always got a big kick out of it.

Lastily, my Dad loved to dip tobacco. When he had completely lost his appetite, he was still dipping 'Grizzly'. And when he passed, Dad still had one more dip. So I would like to this 'last dip' inside the casket with him.

Paw Paw...Kim, Hanna, John and I love you so much. Thank you for coming and I will let Brother Dale speak now.

Mike McCarthy


John, Julia and Mildred McCarthy - circa 1966

Hanna's speech for Paw Paw's Funeral

"Before we continue, I would just like to share a few memories and stories that sum up what my Paw Paw meant to my brother and me. I know one thing that I will never forget is how much he cared about us. He was always watching us to make sure no danger came our way. I would always appreciate when he took his time to sit down and cook a meal with me (he made my favorite stew) or just play a game of rook, and whenever John and I played hide and seek we would hide in Paw Paw's room because he was great about keeping a secret and being loyal. I know he will be greatly missed, not only by John and me, but by all of his loving family and friends, and he will always be in our hearts. I understand that even death cannot stop him from keeping a watchful eye on us and looking out for us even from Heaven!

Hanna McCarthy

(John got up and talked about Paw Paw's tomato plants in the front yard and how they had finally appeared on the vine on the very morning of the funeral. Thank you, John

Our friend Rick O'Brien compiled a music CD to play at the Service.

  • Swing Low, Sweet Chariot / Johnny Cash
  • Sweet Inspiration / Dan Penn & Spooner Oldham
  • Amazing Grace / Elvis Presley
  • Take My Hand / Aretha Franklin
  • Peace In The Valley
  • I Won't Have to Cross Jordan Alone /
  • Where Could I Go, But To the Lord / Elvis Presley
  • Take My Hand, Precious Lord / Mahalia Jackson
  • Where No One Stands Alone / Loretta Lynn
  • We Praise You, O'Lord / David Frazier
  • Near My God To Thee / Blind Mississippi Morris
  • Take My Hand Precious Lord / Elvis Presley


John McCarthy, Jr. (89) of Guntown, Mississippi, died Sunday, May 8th, 2011. He served as an Army Corporal in WW2. He was preceded in death by his wife Winnie Mildred McCarthy, brother Taylor and sisters Francis and Hazel. He is survived by one sister Annie Laura and leaves his son Mike McCarthy and wife Kim, and grandchildren Hanna Mildred and John Marvel. Memorials or flowers can be sent to Bethany A.R. Presbyterian Church, Baldwyn, Mississippi, where he was a lifetime member. Visitation 12-2 followed by funeral at Bethany Church.