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Radio DJ Michael "Doc" McCoy was a Sonoma farm boy of 8 when his mother sat him down and showed him a small doll she'd kept locked away. Then she told him a story.

It was not a happy tale. There was dried blood on the hand-painted Japanese doll's silk dress.

McCoy, now 53, was equally enthralled and aghast as he heard for the first time that his mother, Jean-Marie Heskett, and her parents and brother were imprisoned, tortured and starved in a Japanese internment camp in the Philippines through most of World War II.

Holding the doll, Heskett told her son that on the day in early 1945 that the Americans liberated Manila's notorious Santo Tomas Internment Camp, she saw a GI shoot and kill an enemy sniper.

The Army private then knelt and cut from the dead Japanese soldier's belt a small doll, possibly a gift from his daughter or a reminder of her. Upon entering the prison camp the GI spotted Jean-Marie -- 9 years old, curly headed and miserably thin.

"I weighed less than 50 pounds then," she recalls now. "I got so weak that it took two arms to carry a pint of water."

When the liberator knelt and offered her the doll, she declined. "Oh, no, I couldn't take it. It's a Japanese doll," she said.

But the soldier persisted and young Jean-Marie, who then was an American citizen but had yet to step foot in this country, relented. A million bitter memories and a few dear now flow from that tiny doll.

Over the 45 years since Michael McCoy heard the first installment of his mother's story, he has asked countless questions and marveled that she didn't emerge from the camp full of hatred.

"There's good and bad in everything," she's told him over the years. It was not a coincidence that when Heskett opened her home to a foreign exchange student back when her son was a student at Sonoma Valley High, their house guest was a Japanese boy.

More than a year ago, Heskett, now 73 and a retired Hewlett-Packard/Agilent quality inspector, asked her son's help to find someone who might be interested in writing a book on her family's ordeal at the Santo Tomas camp. McCoy slept on the request, then decided to see if he could write the book himself.

It turned out he could.

The first-time author had the manuscript well under way when he accompanied his mother early last year to Manila and to the University of Santo Tomas. The nearly 400-year-old Catholic college was converted to a temporary prison camp following Japan's occupation of Manila.

After visiting the Philippines with his mother, McCoy, a KMGG disc jockey who also works as an electrical technician at Agilent, quickly finished the book. Strategic Book Publishing of New York has published it.

Heskett hopes that the book will shed light on the misery and humanity that dwelled in the Japanese prison camps, and that it will strengthen the case for not allowing even such cruelty to justify the harboring of hatred.

"I don't hate, I really don't," she said. "It's like carrying garbage around with you all the time."

It was on Jan. 14, 1942, that a brutal and abrupt end came to the good life that Heskett, her older brother, Jimmy, and their parents, Eugene and Eileen Faggiano, had enjoyed in Manila.

The kids' father was an affluent executive with the American President ship lines. "I used to ring a bell" to summon servants, Heskett said.

The Japanese forces that invaded the Philippines immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor ordered all Americans and citizens of other allied nations to surrender to internment camps by Jan. 14, 1942, or risk being shot on sight.

The Faggiano family thought they might be detained for a few days. But they and more than 4,000 others were interned until liberation in February 1945.

In the book, McCoy shares his mother's excruciating memories of near-starvation, executions and endless cruelty. Heskett shares that her father was tortured and that she's certain the Japanese soldiers who took her mother into a room to beat her also raped her, although her mother never spoke of what happened.

Both of Heskett's parents survived into old age and died in Lake County.

Along with the horror, hope and humanity also existed at Santo Tomas and those qualities figure prominently in the book (throughmymotherseyes.com). Heskett happily recalls the young Japanese soldier who befriended her, and how they exchanged language lessons.

It made for one of her most bittersweet moments when the soldier told her good-bye, that he was being sent into combat at Bataan. He bowed to the emaciated child and handed her the gift of her life: a tin of candy-coated almonds.

Thirty years later, in 1973, the internment camp survivor drove from Sonoma to San Francisco International Airport to send off the Japanese teenager who'd spent a marvelous summer with her family.

At the departure gate, Heskett embraced the boy and handed him a box of candied almonds, the significance of which she didn't try to explain.

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