Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Dignity restored to photo of Army Air Corps dad after 28 years

Rick Carr, left, intended to restore a photo of Tim St. John’s father in 1982. The photo was forgotten; the co-workers parted ways. Carr finished the job, found St. John and presented the gift.

SCOTT KEELER | Times

Rick Carr, left, intended to restore a photo of Tim St. John’s father in 1982. The photo was forgotten; the co-workers parted ways. Carr finished the job, found St. John and presented the gift.

ST. PETERSBURG

When Rick Carr found a ripped, fading portrait of a World War II soldier in a box of old sketches and photos last month, he was filled with guilt.

He'd had the photo for 28 years. It belonged to an old friend named Tim St. John. They'd worked together in the St. Petersburg Times' classified advertising department in the early 1980s when Carr was in college studying photography.

It was the only photo St. John had of his father, Joseph St. John, in his Army Air Corps uniform. The time and place were stamped on the back: Philadelphia, 1945.

St. John had given it to Carr to repair in 1982 when they worked together.

"My heart just dropped," said Carr, 52. "I immediately thought of Tim. I felt so bad I had it for all these years."

Carr, a professional photo and video editor for Gulfstream Creative Media, got to work repairing the portrait using a high-end scanner and PhotoShop. He wrote a letter to the Times, hoping to find St. John so the photo could be returned.

St. John, 62, was still working in classified advertising, having returned to the Times after working for a newspaper in Denver. Carr recently delivered the photo to St. John. Upon their reunion, they also discovered that Carr also had an old photo of St. John's mother, Pauline.

"I never thought I'd see them again," St. John said of his parents' photos.

Thirty years ago, Carr was an ambitious young photojournalist at the University of South Florida. He took every photography class available to him, spending countless hours in the darkroom making new prints and editing old ones by hand with precision tools and a paintbrush.

Sometimes he brought photos to work to share with St. John.

"I knew he was studying photography, so I told him, 'If you want a challenge, here's something to hone your skills on,' " St. John said. "I gave him an easy one and a hard one. The one of my mother wasn't too bad, but my father's photo was pretty ruined."

It looked like it had been through a washing machine. Worst of all, someone had painted over the original badges and ribbons.

Overwhelmed by the amount of work it would take to repair, Carr put both photos in a box and forgot about them.

He graduated from college and left the Times. St. John moved to Denver. Years passed, the men lost contact, and the photos lay untouched.

Last month, Carr revisited the portrait of Joseph St. John, this time with three decades' worth of photo editing experience under his belt. Modern digital photo editing software saved him countless hours of work he would have had to do by hand 20 years ago.

He spent about 30 hours touching up the edges and repairing scratches. He found photos online of the exact patches and ribbons on the lieutenant's jacket by searching Google for Army Air Corps portraits.

He used elements of the left eye to re-create the right eye.

"It's like being a surgeon," Carr said. "You're reconstructing every element, making sure the cheekbone is in place, making sure the eye is in the socket."

In the process, he said, he often wondered about Joseph St. John's story.

"I get lost in the photo and the research," Carr said. "My mind was thinking, 'What is this guy seeing and feeling when he's flying over Germany?' "

As a result of his research, Carr suspected that St. John had served in Australia because his Air Corps wings were a rare set issued only to pilots trained there during World War II.

He was right. Upon returning the photo last week, Carr learned from Tim St. John that his father was a radio operator reporting the locations of enemy ships to Air Corps headquarters in Australia.

After 3 1/2 years in the Philippines, Joseph St. John met his wife while he was a patient at the Don CeSar — then a converted military hospital. They were married in October 1945.

The senior St. John earned a Legion of Merit and Purple Heart for shrapnel wounds suffered during the war.

He later wrote a book, Leyte Calling, named after the province where he was located in the Philippines.

Carr said refining the photo was a way of showing his gratitude for U.S. soldiers.

"The work that I do on this is honoring his service to our country," Carr said. "In some way I feel like I'm repaying a debt not only to Tim, but to his father."

Dignity restored to photo of Army Air Corps dad after 28 years 03/13/10 [Last modified: Monday, March 15, 2010 4:20pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Florida education news: Athletic trainers, signing bonuses, student vaccinations and more

    Blogs

    SAFETY FIRST: Pasco County school district leaders decide to retain high school athletic trainers, which had been slated for elimination, amid pleas from …

  2. Rays morning after: Why Alex Cobb was out of the game and Alex Colome was in

    Blogs

    Alex Cobb obviously did a really good job pitching the first eight innings for the Rays on Tuesday.

    So why didn't manager Kevin Cash let him pitch the ninth?

    Because he had Alex Colome available to do so.

    Cobb had thrown only 98 pitches, so workload and fatigue were not factors.

  3. Police commander among 6 charged in deadly 1989 UK soccer deaths

    World

    LONDON — British prosecutors charged six people Wednesday in the 1989 Hillsborough stadium disaster where 96 soccer fans were crushed to death.

    Police, stewards and supporters tend and care for wounded supporters on the pitch at Hillsborough Stadium, in Sheffield, England, on April 15, 1989. British prosecutors on Wednesday June 28, 2017, are set to announce whether they plan to lay charges in the deaths of 96 people in the Hillsborough stadium crush _ one of Britain's worst-ever sporting disasters. [Associated Press]
  4. Supreme Court term ended much different than it began

    Courts

    BC-US—Supreme Court, 1st Ld-Writethru,899

    AP Photo WX109

    People visit the Supreme Court in Washington, Monday, June 26, 2017, as justices issued their final rulings for the term, in Washington.  The Supreme Court began its term nine months ago with Merrick Garland nominated to the bench, Hillary Clinton favored to be the next president, and the court poised to be controlled by Democratic appointees for the first time in 50 years.  Things looked very different when the justices wrapped up their work this week. [Associated Press]
  5. SPC's Bill Law leaves with pride for the faculty, concern for students — and a story about hotdogs

    College

    ST. PETERSBURG — The local community college had already made a name for itself when William Law Jr. first arrived on campus in the early 1980s as a vice president. Still, the school, then named St. Petersburg Junior College, was just a shadow of the sprawling state college it would later become.

    Bill Law, outgoing St. Petersburg College president, said he is proud of the college cultivating stronger relationships with the community.