My wife and I were out with another couple having dinner and watching another singer songwriter friend of ours perform at Dalton’s in Payson. My wife and I arrived early and were seated in the corner. I asked to be moved to another table that had a better view of the stage and the waitress moved us to another table. She sat us next to a wall that was covered in pictures of soldiers young and old as well as an American flag and some patriotic quotes. The wall was the kind of thing that you notice, but almost subconsciously. Eventually we found ourselves looking at the wall without even discussing it while we were waiting for our friends to join us. They came and no other attention was paid to the wall until “she” came.
Her name was Patty Gasser, and I didn’t know her yet but I would soon feel very blessed for having made her acquaintance. She came to the edge of our table in the middle of our meal. Our conversation quietly drifted away as we took notice of our visitor. She was very polite and apologized for interrupting our dinner. She explained that she had only come to visit her husband and indicated that his picture was on the wall just above our table. She explained that he had just died very recently and through tears she told us that she felt so lost without him and didn’t know what to do. We offered her the table and she politely declined and quietly left. There was not a dry eye at our table and I knew immediately that I had to write this song. I would later learn that the man in this old black and white photo hanging in a little steakhouse in Payson among many other local heroes was Don Gasser.
Don was born on April 13, 1936, the youngest of 3 children born to Leonard Paul and Wilma Gasser. He grew up in the shadow of Loafer Mt. in Haskellville, which is now Elk Ridge, Utah. He was the ultimate outdoors man and loved to hunt and fish.
He met the love of his life, Patricia Ann Lanzo, while in the Navy, in California, in 1956. Don and Patty were married in Boston on November 3, 1957. They made a home and raised a family for 56yrs. Here in Payson, Utah. Their home was a testament to his love of family and the outdoors. His craftsmanship and woodworking were admired by all who visited there.
Don was a hard worker giving 28yrs. to U.S. Steel to the Geneva plant where he retired in 1985. Later he worked 11yrs. for the Mt. Nebo School District mowing lawns.He loved to see and visit with all the little kids.
I found this info on his obituary along with this quote “Don’t [grieve] for me for I am not gone… I’m just on the other side watching and waiting for my Love to come.”
I tried my hardest to incorporate that sentiment into the song. After I began writing the song I found Patty on the Internet and called her at home. I explained who I was and that I wanted her blessing before I continued paying tribute to her and her husband and their love with my song. She was overjoyed and sent a copy of a DVD that Don had made for his kids and grand kids about his life.
I didn’t meet Patty in person until the night of May 24th when I performed the song for her and many of her family including her grandchildren. I had made arrangements with the owner of Dalton’s to entertain his guests that night. Arrangements were also made to have a Fox 13 camera crew at the restaurant to do a Memorial Day Weekend story about Patty and Don and my song. I also spoke with Patty’s daughter Teresa and we decided that since Teresa would be picking her mother up from the airport earlier that day that they would take her out to dinner, straight to Dalton’s where she would be surprised. I was nervous to have Patty hear the song but I was very excited to pay tribute to her husband and their loving relationship.
Performing the song was easier than I imagined it. Having the news camera their added to my nervousness but I felt like I was singing it just for Patty even though it was the first time she heard it, I knew that it connected with her since it was all true and, after all it was her story. She cried a bit and I got a little choked up whenever I made eye contact with her. After I finished the song, the restaurant, that had been relatively quiet up to that point, erupted in applause. I knew that I had just accomplished something that I had set out to do when I wrote my very first song. Something that I had only done a handful of times before. I had written a song that had touched the hearts of people that listened to it. I made people feel something. The best part about it was the fact that I got to do it live and hear, see, and feel their response. There was a high level of emotion in the room and it felt great!
As a songwriter I know that some songs I just write, and some of the songs I write find me. This is one of those songs.
Pat Gasser and Cody Robbins at Dalton’s Steakhouse in Payson on Saturday May 24th, 2014.