My Grandpa, My Marine

one little girl’s tribute to her late grandfather

Erika Johnson, photos by Travis Dewitz

Jan. 12, 2013 is one of those dates that will hold steadfast in the young, tender heart of 9-year-old Teslyn, my daughter. There are certain days and reflections in life that define who we are, that allow us to reminisce exact moments; when we close our eyes and remember the smells and sights of everything around us. This was that defining moment for her, a quiet Saturday morning as the phone rang; she looked toward the sky, blew a kiss and sent the angels racing to heaven to look after her “Papa Mark.” Mark was the simplest of men, always adorned in his favorite flannel shirt, whose gentle heart left the legacy of quiet strength and determination of a decorated Marine. This proud grandpa, who just 18 months earlier was diagnosed with an aggressive astrocytoma brain tumor, fought this battle on his own terms. Even at her innocent age, Teslyn had an implausible bond with her grandpa that crafted the innate depth of her very being. Letters to heaven, stories in her school backpack, and her teddy bear – which was handmade with his irreplaceable flannel – are trademark remembrances as she celebrates his unbroken influence on her life. Teslyn’s wish is to make sure her Papa Mark isn’t left behind; that his life is ignited through the fire in her soul and her love shows no boundaries.

Modeling + Letter by Teslyn Johnson

Teslyn Johnson is a fourth-grade student at Sherman Elementary School in Eau Claire. She had a bond with her grandpa Mark like no other, and his unconditional love left a legacy of strength and ignited a fire in her young soul that will stand the test of time. Teslyn loves to build tree houses, work outside, and is a math brainiac. It is very important for Teslyn to remember and honor her grandpa Mark in the most authentic of ways.

Photography by Dewitz Photography

Travis Dewitz is local photographer who specializes in portraits and commercial photography throughout the Midwest. He is the author of the book Blaze Orange: Whitetail Deer Hunting in Wisconsin.

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