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.