This profile was written from a collaboration of family recollections and stories from personal friends and business associates that knew John Nathan Boyce.
John Nathan Boyce
John Nathan Boyce was born April 11, 1923 at Friday Harbor Washington. He was born the only son of John Leroy Boyce and Evelyn Rose Rudolph. John Nathan was given quite a few nick names through his life, It is believed these first nicknames came about as there were quite a few "John Boyce's" living on the island at the same time, and it must have been an easy way to call out for a child without two or three adults turning around. in response. Some of the earlier nicknames included "Buddy" or sometimes "Rose Bud". He was also given the nickname "Tiny" later in life, as he grew to be quite a large man in stature.
Pictured at left is John Henry Boyce (Buddy's grandfather), and John Nathan "Buddy" Boyce.
Photo "courtesy of Katherine (Kitty) Mildred Beryl Wade-Roberts."
Pictured above right as children: June Bernice, John Nathan, and Georgina Beryl Boyce.
Photo "courtesy of Katherine (Kitty) Mildred Beryl Wade-Roberts."
By the age of sixteen, Buddy found himself in trouble with the law. Apparently he had stolen a car or two, but no details are available about this. Buddy continued with this fascination for the automobile as you will find throughout his profile. One of Buddy's early jobs was working for a street or road crew in Seattle, possibly with one or two of his Uncle's, when he suffered an accident, falling into a large hole that had been dug into the street. Buddy was severely injured, breaking several bones and suffering multiple lacerations. What did Buddy do? He somehow managed to get himself up and out of the hole with no help, got himself to a car, and proceeded to drive to the local hospital. Apparently Buddy was in pretty bad shape and the doctors couldn't believe that he had managed to get himself to the hospital on his own. We would love to be able to find that record to verify the extent of his injuries.
Buddy joined the Army Corps of Engineers and ended up in Alaska for a short time. This may be where he got his experience operating heavy equipment, but he had to leave the corps as he somehow managed to injure one of his eyes. Later he also worked for a short time in Seattle Washington as a Police Officer.
Pictured above right: June Bernice, Georgina Beryl, John Nathan, and Clayton Francis Boyce.
Photo courtesy of Clayton Francis Boyce.
Pictured at left in their teens: June Bernice, John Nathan, and Georgina Beryl Boyce.
Photo courtesy of Lennie Lynn Boyce-Hulo.
Buddy met his first wife, Beatty Sprague in Seattle at a local bowling alley when they were both 19. Early in their marriage, Buddy and Beatty would occasionally take a trip to the San Juan Islands, and while there they would go rabbit hunting, and visit with family. Beatty recalls: "Buddy's mom Evelyn didn't hug the kids much. She rarely visited and on one occasion, brought Buddy a cupcake for his birthday, that's it." Buddy and Betty went on the road as Buddy had become a "stunt driver" and was driving in thrill shows. Buddy and Betty had gone to one particular show in Missoula Montana, taking along Betty's young daughter from a previous marriage, and their first born infant son, Leroy Lamont. While driving in the show, Buddy's stunt went awry and he broke his collar bone. They left for home and Betty doesn't recall them ever going to another thrill show together again. Buddy was asked to leave the marriage with Betty as there ended up being unreconcilable differences. Beatty worked in the shipyards at Seattle, raising her children for many years by herself until she met a wonderful man, Mr.Durant? and remarried. Buddy ended up in Medford Oregon where his mother Evelyn Rose Rudolph was living with her second husband, Phillip Worden. Buddy had his eye on a convertible but had no money so he turned to Evelyn and she gave him a family diamond ring. He hocked the ring and apparently purchased the convertible.
Pictured above right: Buddy Boyce and First wife, Betty Sprague
Photo courtesy of Lennie Lynn Boyce-Hulo.
The following was a correspondence received from the web master at stuntdriver.com, as I sent an inquiry in 1999 to confirm Buddy's stunt car driving during this time.
"We suspect Buddy played in the movie "To Please A Lady" with Clark Gable, which can be purchased from online from one of the top book stores. An MGM movie. Will sent you an mail to where to buy it. later.Curry, Fleenor, Snooks and Foster was in the movie also. Hickman was on the MGM staff. From the picture of your dad, the car was painted with Death Drivers to enter into a cash derby, sponsored by Chitwood. About 30 cars were painted with names, instead of numbers for these events in 1959, 60 and 61. To promote larger crowds. We also suspect Buddy was paid under the name of Bill Hickman, who made a number of movies. or was a close friend of Hickman, so he could get paid. Buddy must have had close friends with-in the movie industry to get these stunt scene's . Rather than work with the major auto thrill shows like Kochman, Swensen and ect. He did movie parts with Chitwood in CA, and Indianapolis 500 speedway, in Indiana. Also movie companies did not give movie credits to the real names. Some paid cash without a SS# number or name."
Pictured at right: Buddy standing next to one of his stunt cars at around 20 years of age.
Photo courtesy of Georgina Beryl Boyce-Farfan.
Buddy met his second wife, Dorothy Jean Pendergast-Darland in Medford as Dorothy was then working at a drive-in theater. Dorothy recalls, "He just wouldn't leave me alone." and eventually Dorothy left her troubled marriage to John Leroy Darland and with her three small boys in tow, eventually ended up marrying Buddy in Reno Nevada.
Pictured below from front to back: Buddy, James Phillip Boyce, Billy Lee Darland, Larry John Darland, and Patrick Glen Darland.
Photo courtesy of Dorothy Jean Pendergast-Boyce.
Buddy and Dorothy moved to Baker Oregon where he ended up working as a heavy equipment operator for the city. There Buddy and Dorothy had three children, James Phillip, Thomas Lee, and Michael Richard. According to the time line, Buddy was again doing stunt driving and found his way to the Chitwood Driving Team where he managed to get some movie stunt driving jobs. It is said that as mentioned above, he did stunt driving in the 1959 Clark Gable movie, To Please a Lady, a feature where the lead character, Clark Gable, was a race car and stunt car driver. Buddy also did some stunt driving in the movies, Thunder Road, and appeared in one of the Hope and Crosby "Road" Pictures, where in one scene, he drove a large out of control truck, recklessly down a hill. While in Baker Oregon, Buddy was working in a rock quarry and fell into a rock crusher resulting in serious injuries to his right arm and leg. But Buddy never let his injuries past or present drag him down. Dorothy Jean recalls "when he got home from the hospital, he removed the casts and laughed about the whole thing!"
In 1961 and with six young boys in tow, Buddy and Dorothy moved to Portland, Oregon and rented a large 5 story house on Vancouver Avenue in North Portland for $100 a month. There, they had a daughter, Kathleen Ann. One of the Darland Boys, Billy Lee recalls Buddy using an acetylene torch on the springs of an older model car that he was preparing for a race at Jantzen Beach Raceway. Apparently he would weaken the springs on one side of the car so that it would perform better in the curves on the circle track. Another of Buddy's kids from his first marriage, Bradley John, was having difficulties at home and was sent to go "live with his father." This now meant that Buddy was supporting a wife, a housekeeper/nanny, 3 Darland boys, 4 Boyce boys and a daughter. For the next several years, Buddy would be away from home off and on, seeking various way's to support his family.
Pictured above right: Buddy at about the age of 35 in Baker Oregon.
Photo courtesy of Dorothy Jean Pendergast-Boyce.
Buddy, or "Tiny" as he was then nicknamed at the time, got a job with the Alaska Barge and Transport Company, headquartered in Seattle Washington. Sometime between 1966 and 1967, when Buddy was contracted out for a period of 18 months, the AB&T was subcontracted to move military freight for the US Army during the Vietnam war. Tiny, with his experience operating heavy equipment, and particularly cranes, was assisting with the loading and offloading of these supply ships.
J.N. "Tiny" Boyce and the Alaska Barge and Transport Company in Vietnam
"Click Here" for a detailed outline of Tiny Boyce's envolvement in South East Asia, during the Vietnam War between 1966 and 1967.
Upon returning from Vietnam, Tiny showed up at the house with a Harley Davidson motorcycle (according to Dean Hicks, he thought it was a 1943 "Knucklehead" with a side shifter. According to Art Hull, it was a 1946). It had been painted in tiger stripes and mounted with what Tiny claimed was over 100 working lights. (This motorcycle was later identified as the "Tiger Harley of Vung Tau") as described by his friend, Art Hull. It looked like a Christmas tree when it was all lit up at night. When he had brought it home, he set it on it's side in the front yard and challenged any of his children to pick the bike up. He said, "If one of you can pick it up, its yours." Of course none of us children could as it was extremely heavy. Whether or not the motorcycle he showed up with was actually the "Tiger Harley of Vung Tau" or a recreation after he got back, is unknown.
Pictured above right, Art Hull seated on the "Tiger Harley of Vung Tau" in Vietnam, ca. 1966.
Photo courtesy of Art and Marie Hull.
Michael Richard recalls, "I remember our dad came home for Christmas that year, 1967 I believe, and was presenting all the children with various gifts that he had brought back from Vietnam. Their were several black silk jackets for the older boys, a decorative photo album, an ivory Elephant tusk which had an entire city, people included, intricately carved into it, a black velvet "locket" key chain, which featured the Ten Commandments on one side and a Lucky Strike cigarette ad on the other, and a Dragon Ship that had been carved out of a Water Buffalo horn, that was given to me for Christmas. We were all so excited to see our dad, as it seemed like he had been gone for such a long time."
Pictured at right as it looks today, the large 5 story house Tiny and Dorothy rented in Portland Oregon for $100 a month!
Apparently while over their, Buddy hooked up with American businessman, Mel Falla. One Buddy's stories was that Mel Falla gifted the President of the United States, Roosevelt, with a Scottish Terrier, which was named Fala. I managed to find on the internet that President Roosevelt's dog Falla was gifted to him by his cousin, Miss Margaret Lynch Suckley. Was this cousin a Falla? Quite possibly. Mel and Buddy worked together for the AB&T, and were overseeing the construction of a company building which upon completion, was destroyed by a rocket from the North Vietnamese Army. Beatty Sprague, Buddy's first wife recalled a story told to her by their oldest son, Leroy Lamont, who was stationed as a motorcycle Currier of messages for the US Army in Vietnam at the same time Buddy was over there. "Leroy had gotten into an accident on his motorcycle, injuring his back and knee. Leroy had also been attacked by the Vietnamese while there and was severely beaten with clubs. Buddy had located and approached Leroy, asking him if he would send something (Jewels?) back to the United States. Leroy refused, and they went their separate ways."
Send something? What was Tiny really up to while over in Vietnam? All that we know is that he ended up sending home quite a bit of money, diamonds and precious gems in the form of jewelry. We do know that Tiny was making very good money overseas, perhaps enough to afford all these luxuries? When Tiny had returned from Vietnam for the last time, he was wearing fancy silk shirts, and boasting stories that were so outrageous, it was hard to believe anything we were told. There is a photograph of Tiny taken in 1968 at Seaside Oregon, while we were on a family vacation. He has this far away look in his eyes, staring out over the ocean, reflecting no doubt on his previous overseas adventures on the South China Sea.
Tiny had sent enough money home as to afford to buy a house and a towing business. Tiny had grown quite large and as the story went, he had won a bet that he could get his weight up to 300 pounds. The name of the business was Duncan Towing and featured wreckers painted white with red "candy cane" stripes. Tiny was credited with having built the first wrecker in Portland capable of towing a large Semi Truck. His first attempt failed as the boom for the lift was too weak and it bent when a lift was attempted. He redesigned the boom and the second attempt was successful. While running Duncan Towing, Tiny fell ill to bouts of Malaria, no doubt contracted in S.E Asia. He was being treated with Quinine and was so ill, that he had to ask his sister, Georgina Beryl Boyce-Farfan to help out with running the business so that he could recover.
During this time, Tiny had something he was cooking up. According to Larry Darland, Dorothy Jean's second oldest son from her first marriage, Tiny was trying to sell a story to Time Magazine for ten thousand dollars, which profiled the corruption that he had witnessed while over in Vietnam. Time Magazine refused to purchase the story so Tiny decided to go another route. Dorothy Jean recalls that Tiny had some Lieutenant Colonel of the Navy over one day, who was taking some kind of statement from him. Apparently Tiny was ready to testify to a Senate Hearing Committee on the corruption and the US' involvement of this corruption during the Vietnam war. Dorothy Jean smelled trouble brewing and decided to take herself and her four children, and leave Tiny for good. Dorothy's second oldest son Larry had just returned from Vietnam "he was on a PBR crew in the Navy" and helped Dorothy with the move. Dorothy had packed only what she could fit in Larry's old 50's Lincoln, and away they went, moving the kids to Medford, Oregon.
Shortly following Dorothy's departure, Tiny was interviewed and submitted a news story to the Portland based Oregonian Newspaper that was featured August 8th, 1971.
To read this story "Click Here."
Trouble had followed Tiny's testimony as Dorothy had anticipated. Apparently while driving down the highway in S.W. Washington State, a speeding black car came up from behind, and then along side of Tiny's car and began shooting at him. Tiny's previous experience as a stunt driver afforded him to take evasive actions and he swerved his car off of the highway and rolled it several times, completely totaling the automobile. The attackers sped away, assuming that he hadn't survived the crash. Tiny ended up not injured in the crash.
Tiny Goes to China in 1972
Dean Hicks, one of Tiny's work associates with the Alaska Barge and Transport Company, reported that a friend of his saw Tiny at an airport in China, six months following President Nixon's visit to China on February 21, 1972. Dean didn't recall why Tiny was there, just that it had been mentioned to him. A recent conversation with Art Hull in January of 2003, revealed the following: Tiny had told Art about several millions in US dollars that had been buried in a cemetery about 200 to 300 miles inland. The money was allegedly hidden there when the Japanese invaded China and started overrunning it during WWII, because they couldn't get it out of the country. Tiny didn't tell Art that this was why he was going to China, but Art is sure that this was the reason. Tiny did go to China about that time. If he found the location, he didn't get any of the money out of there.
Tiny had become concerned with follow up attacks at home and began keeping vicious guard dogs around his house in N.E. Portland. Tiny met a waitress named Jeannie at the Rim Rock Cafe that he frequented, located just next door to Duncan Towing. Jeannie's father owned the Butcher shop across the highway from the cafe where they had met. Tiny apparently married Jeannie, but there was just one problem with this however. Tiny had never gotten a divorce from Dorothy Before Marrying Jeannie. Little is known about Tiny's life the few years after Dorothy Jean left with her children. During this time he had gifted his son James Phillip with an old rusted Chevy Impala convertible. I believe that was Jim's first car.
Shortly before Tiny's death in 1976, Jeannie had contacted Dorothy Jean and told her that he was dying and that she had better get her kids up there fast. Tiny had developed late stage Diabetes and his health was rapidly deteriorating. Many of his children traveled to Portland to see him for the last time. Michael Richard was the last of his children to see him alive. Michael recalls: "I was in Oysterville Washington at the time, working on a farm for the summer that was owned and operated by Sherry Burnett-Goulter and her husband Bud. Sherry was hired as our Housekeeper and Nanny some years earlier (1966/67), while Tiny was in Vietnam, and Sherry had became a very close family friend and literally my second mother. Jeannie was extremely overprotective of him when I came to see him. He was confined to bed rest and she quickly ushered myself and her son Ronny, out of the house and drove us to see a Bruce Lee movie that afternoon. How we got in, I do not know, as those movies held an R" rating at the time. Upon our return, I got to spend about 10 minutes with my dad. He sat up in his bed, his face at the age of 53 was worn and his eyes were tired. He then told me that he had always loved all of his children and that he wished things had turned out better than they did. He told me that he loved me, and that he was proud of me and gave me a hug and a kiss goodbye."
Just days later, John Nathan Boyce passed away. He died of congestive heart failure at his home in Portland Oregon, July 23rd, 1976, at the young age of 53.
John Nathan's youngest son Michael Richard, would like to personally sum up his fathers life with the following statement:
"My fathers life was reckless at best. His sometimes selfish actions had negatively effected the lives of all who were related to him, those who knew him, and those who knew of him. Perhaps shame or guilt kept Buddy from telling his family stories about growing up on San Juan Island, and all of the wonderful history that he could have shared about his family. Many still have embittered hearts towards this man, but I would like to recognize him as the man who gave me my "life." With my life, I have been blessed with love and happiness not only through a wonderful marriage to my best friend Sandy, but also with my incredible son Tyler James, and gifted daughter, Alicia Christine. From this brief experience with my father, I have learned that I can be the dad I never had, the husband that he never was, and be quite proud to share with my children, the history of our family and the integrity of being a Boyce."
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