Monday, May 5, 2008


"I love you" were the last words he spoke to the woman he had been married to for 58 years. I guess that Guinness-World-Records blood runs in the family after all.

My grandfather, Stanley G. Houghtby, Lieutenant Colonel USAF Retired, 82, passed away Sunday, April 27, 2008 at his home in Melbourne.

Born August 5, 1925, from Shabbona, Illinois, Lt. Colonel Houghtby was a highly decorated Air Force fighter pilot and a recipient of numerous United States and foreign decorations. He was a veteran of WW II and the Korean and Vietnam wars. He flew numerous combat missions in both Korea and Vietnam. He came from a family of 10 children of which one brother and three sisters are living.

He is survived by his wife Mona, three daughters, Sandra, Sharon and Shelley and two grandchildren.

I would add an unofficial third one, my wonderful wife Susie for whom I know he had a very special, grand-daughter-like affection.

"Grandfather" is typically just a word that indicates a family tie - The father of one of your parents.

Stanley G. Houghtby was for me a Grandfather in the literal meaning of the word - a great father.

Although we were divided by the Atlantic ocean most of our lives, I cherish the time we spent together in those long Floridian summer school breaks.

Being a powerful father-figure when one was lacking in my life, Grandpa was one of the biggest influences that made me the person I have become today - in all aspects of life.

He was funny, with an incredible whit that captured everyone; he was loyal to his family and wife; he was creative, coming up with some of the most ingenious ideas ever or little works of art that made people's life different. (The first thing that comes to my mind is a huge yellow smiley that he made from scratch and that he posted on his fence for us and which no doubt gave people driving along A1A a smile. People liked it so much that they stole it - at least twice if I recall correctly.)

He taught me the value of silence as we sat watching the ocean for hours without necessarily speaking.
He taught me to look at the sky that he knew so well, looking at clouds and finding shapes in them; "Cloud-catching" - as I like to call it- is one of my top 3 sources of inspiration & relaxation today. Want a piece of music from me? Give me a sky and I'll give you a song!

Our educations couldn't have been more different - he being raised in an Illinois farm and me studying classical music at the Conservatory in Rome.

But his influence was crucial in forging my music as it sounds today.

He introduced me to music I otherwise would have never listened to but that helped me take in elements that have become distinct in my piano playing sound; like the Floyd Cramer slipped notes, mad boogie woogie piano (Often shunned by classical snobs but with an intelligence and technical demand worthy of a Chopin!), ragtime and much more.

He taught me to enjoy the pleasures of life and be content with simple things.

At times he forced me into playing for crowds in stores and restaurants and he loved to watch me eat good ol' American breakfasts.

The biggest confort of all is that he's like in a deep sleep and not suffering anymore until the time when he can wake up.

All in all, a real grandfather - a great father.

Stan, the decorated pilot; Stan the man.