Our Friend Papa Dan

by Captain Bill

Our Friend Papa Dan

Dan Buzzo in very happy times, Feb. 4, 1960

Dan Buzzo in very happy times, Feb. 4, 1960

Of all the gringos that have made this wonderful city of Iquitos their home there is none to compare with Papa Dan, “The Real Old Man of the Jungle”.

Papa Dan on the Maggie B, Amazon River, June, 1989

Papa Dan on the Maggie B, Amazon River, June, 1989

Dan C. Buzzo was born April 7th, 1921 in Harlington, Texas. Papa Dan went to school at Schriener Military Institute, Kernelle, Texas and Esterel University, Texas until 1938 when he joined the Texas National Guard. Dan was mobilized in November 1941 and was sent by troop ship to the Philippines, stopping en-route at Pearl Harbor. Dan’s ship left Pearl Harbor on December 2nd and while in the mid-pacific the Japanese bombed  Pearl Harbor. The war with Japan began with a bang.

On New Years Eve, 1941 Dan was fighting along side the Australians in Java. In March 1942 Java surrendered, Dan became a Prisoner Of War, and was sent to Singapore, where he spent some time in the infamous Changi Prison. The film “King Rat” portrays Dan and his companions in their attempt to survive the terrible conditions in captivity.

On April 7th, 1942, on the Island of Java, the Japanese strung barb wire around a group of Allied Prisoners Of War. Confused and scared, a young soldier from Texas watched and wondered what the future held for him. He noticed that metallic disks were attached to the wire about every 50 feet or so. After awhile he ventured over to the fence to have a look at one of those tags. Stamped in the metal, it read Made In USA. So much had happened so quickly in the preceeding six months and little did he know, the worst was yet to come. April 7, 1942 was Dan Buzzo’s 21st birthday.

Dan spent the rest of the war working on the Burma Railway where 28% of the prisoners of war died from cruel neglect, starvation, or at the hands of their ruthless captors. The movie, Bridge Over The River Kwai, was loosely based on the lives of the group of Prisoners Of War that Dan Buzzo was part of.

The Real Bridge Over The River Kwai

The Real Bridge Over The River Kwai

From March 8th, 1942 until August 15th 1945, Dan and the other members of the most decorated unit from Texas in any war, The Texas Lost Battalion, were enslaved, starved, tortured, and denied medical care for 3 1/2 years.

Following the end of the war, after being promoted to staff sergeant, Dan returned to the United States to continue his studies attaining degrees in science and geology.

Staff Sgt. Dan Buzzo

Staff Sgt. Dan Buzzo

Dan was happy to marry his wife Peggy on October 4th, 1945.

Papa Dan worked in the oil business in Mexico, Argentina, Iran, Monrovia, Ecuador, Peru, Philippines, Mauritania, Trinidad, Colombia, and Bolivia, taking his wife and children with him. He traveled to 45 countries.

Sadly, Peggy died in Ecuador in March of 1972.

After many years working in oil Dan retired and opened Papa Dan’s Gringo Bar in Coca, Ecuador. Next he settled here in Iquitos and opened another Papa Dan’s Gringo Bar. To this day he remains the most respected gringo in Iquitos Peru.

Papa Dan, The Real Old Man Of The Jungle

Papa Dan, The Real Old Man of the Jungle

When we asked Papa Dan, “After a full life, do you still have any ambitions?”

“Oh yes, I want to stay alive long enough to learn the true story of the J. F. Kennedy assassination”.

Papa Dan and Bill Grimes during happy times on board Dawn on the Amazon 3, on the Amazon River, near Iquitos Peru

Papa Dan and Bill Grimes during happy times on board Dawn on the Amazon 3, on the Amazon River, near Iquitos Peru

Among his many accomplishments, Papa Dan is one of the 50 plus founding members/owners of the Amazon Golf Course, in Iquitos Peru.

Our Friend Papa Dan.

By Mike Collis, Michael Buzzo, and Bill Grimes

{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Michael Buzzo May 15, 2010 at 12:42 am

Capt. Bill Grimes (owner of Dawn On The Amazon) & Mike Collis (editor of the iquitostimes.com & whose imagination & hard work brought golf to the middle of the Amazon) wrote this about Pappa Dan and then sent me the link. I really had nothing to do with it.

Gentlemen, I salute you and thank you for honoring my dad in this manner and for being his always faithful & loyal friends!!!

2 Michael Buzzo May 15, 2010 at 12:50 am

Sorry…I need to make a correction; Schriener was one of 12 high-schools Dan attended growing up as the son of an oilman (geologist) in the 1930s. It is located in Kerrville Tx and he obtained his BS in geology at The University of Texas @ Austin…

You guys are great…..thanks again!!!!

3 david sheridan May 15, 2010 at 8:30 pm


I think if you delve into the heart of “Papa Dan” you will find a certain individual who has always held him (Papa Dan) in his heart. Long before myself and most. He who so often quietly speaks of “Dan”- His friend. He worked with him in the oil company days of Dan. He traveled the jungles and rivers with him. He, to this day, anticipates his emails and direction. Dan knows he is his trusted friend. Every time I speak to him of late he says – “I am worried about Papa Dan”. No fanfare. Just quiet and ever so honest concern. Papa Dan is loved by Luis Angel De Freitas Urrunaga”.

4 Captain Bill May 15, 2010 at 9:04 pm

Thanks for the comment Dave. Well said. I agree.
Bill Grimes

5 Michael Buzzo May 16, 2010 at 2:47 am

Thanks for the comment, Dave. For several decades now, Luis has been a loyal, dedicated, and treasured friend of my father. Luis stands tall in his love for Papa Dan…and Papa Dan loves Luis; as do I.

Thank you for your input on Luis’ behalf. He is definitely a special individual in so many ways and definitely a Godsend to Dad.


6 Aaron May 16, 2010 at 5:35 am

What an inspirational life story…

7 Bob Griffith May 17, 2010 at 10:18 am

My family will always warmly remember Dan’s visits to our home in Houston.

A typical visit began when the back door flew open and we heard a hearty “anybody home?” Remember Dan was always living in and coming from some far away place and we never had a clue that he was anywhere close to Texas. We love him dearly!! Cousin, Bob Griffith

8 Leo Jones May 17, 2010 at 1:52 pm

I’m proud to say I have known Papa Dan for twelve years. He is the kindest, gentelest man I have ever met. As I pen these words I can see him in my mind’s eye smiling at me, a mischoevous twinkle in his eyes.Though he has suffered many setbacks (like most of us have) he always managed to think about others rather than himself. The first day I met him, he said to me” “Leo, if there is anything I can do to help you, just let me know.” Several times over the years I did ask him to help me deal with a problem. It didn’t matter whether he was busy or not, he always found time for me. As I’m sure he has done for countless others. My criteria for judging a man is what he does to help others. Papa Dan has earned the grade of “A plus.” I have always used him as a model of how to conduct myself. I have fallen short of the mark. But when I’m feeling low, I always think of him.I don’t know how to end this comment about this special man. So I’ll say what’s in my heart: “You are an angel, Papa Dan, and I will never forget you.”

9 JOHN ZELLER May 17, 2010 at 4:19 pm

Hey, I´m your New Neighbour!

Didn´t even know it when I first got the flat,
but it was smackdab in the middle stuck between our
LongtimeLonesome, yet Dearly Beloved (WHATWHATWHAT, who you kiddin´???)
Owner of the inFamous Jello Nose of Texas (sic.!)
and the ever-smiling PRIDE OF IQUITOS, noneother than
“BLAZIN´” Papa Dan, an honourable man…
and what fun it was we used to have of a late evening when there´d be that unmistable, gentlemanly knock on the front door and Papa Dan,
charged tumbler in rock-steady hand,
would ask if I´d like another “Poetry Night”.

Damned Right, I Would!!!

And then it´d start…
from memory, Papa Dan would launch into robust recitations from the great Canadian poet, Robert Service,
and, later in the night, an especially charged rendition of his favourite,
all of which 1123-odd verses he knew BY HEART,
reciting each and every one without
a SingleBloodyMistake, mind you!!!

Time for another tumbler and I´d recite a couplet of two from
“The Bard”, Willie The Shake,
and only THEN did the night get serious!
Wow, what cool times, hey? How could we ever forget ém!?
Somehow I found a first edition of those poems.
It´s still in your library awaitin´ another read, Joven!

Thanks for the good times, Papa Dan.
And thanks again for your unhesitatingly BALLSY backing in the
ugly golf club theft debacle,
but all will turn out just fine on that score,
partly because of your stalwart example.

But, you´ve always pulled more than your own weight.

Looking foward to another “Poetry Night”, Pops.

(You never needed to knock, you know.
The door was ALWAYS open to you!)

All My Best to YOU, my Friend!

John Zeller.

10 Leon Jones May 18, 2010 at 9:35 am

That was a great article you did on Papa Dan, Bill. He was a real American hero. I especially enjoyed the pics. As is with most of the things you do, it was written with passion and respect.

11 Michael Buzzo May 20, 2010 at 3:37 am

Thank you all for your wonderful and heart-felt stories and recollections of Pappa Dan… Though he is in “hospice”, he’s making a wonderful recovery and proving to all that he is indeed a survivor! With the help of his VA oncologist (who just happens to be from Lima and is the head of the Oncology Dept @ the VA, retired basketball player from the Int’l league, and makes personal visits to Dan once a week…110 miles RT), all of you, and the others that have not given up on him, he’s regained the 22 lbs he lost in the hospital during his 2 week stay there and gained another 15#s! As he says, “…I’m almost back to my fighting weight”. Please, keep the “kudos” coming…they help him alot. He’s amazing all of us (as he’s always done) by striving to keep going. He’s restless and anxious to get up and out…that’s a good thing. Of course, it’s just one day at a time and he does have his good days and his bad days.

He’s still very confused, and we’re working on that on a daily basis…his sense of humor is great; when I say, “How’s that”?…He says, “Cow’s Ass”. Just like he’s always done. Sometimes he’ll say, “I think I’ll take a drink of that”, and I say “go ahead”, he’ll tell me “…don’t call me gord head”. These are expressions I’ve grown up with all my life.

His motor skills are still a little off and he tells me that we need to lay the pipe down that’s hanging in the derrick or secure it all in the hole, but that’s okay…I like drilling oil wells with the ‘old man’.

And he and I can still trade off verses(and better yet, lines) of …
There are strange things done in the land of the midnight sun by the men who toil for gold
The arctic trails have their secret tales that would make your blood run cold
The northern lights have seen queer sights, but the queerest they ever did see
Was the night on the marge of lake Le Barge, I cremated Sam McGee
Now Sam McGee was from Tennesee where the cotton blooms and blows
And why he left his home in the south to roam ’round the ‘pole, God only knows..

Thank you all….Michael

12 John R Martin June 16, 2010 at 8:26 am

Myself and my family have had the privilege of knowing Dan Buzzo for several years. Dan is indeed a Patriot and fine American whom gave a large portion of his life to help assure we could live as a freedom loving nation where each of us could maintain the right to excell and make the most out of life. With this said, I also found Dan’s testimony as being an excellent human being demonstrated on how he lives his life. In an unwavering manner, I have found Dan to be a man of strong opinion but also willing to listen and considers the view of others. You only need to look into this man’s eyes to see his depth of wisdom which is also manifested in the clarity of his vocabulary and actions. Dan Buzzo is a man of compassion, and in my view a “real man’s man”. On issues of concern, I have seen both tears of sorrow as well as happiness grace this beloved man. I have seen this gentleman take time for everyone, including children. Seemingly trivial, but also defining of one’s character in that he has always taken a moment to acknowledge his kindness and concern for the value of a dog. This action, trivial as it may seem, is always an indicator of one that really understands and appreciates life. There are many many people that can extoll Dan’s accompolishments more accurately and succinctly than myself, but what I do know for certain, is that this man is truly a gentleman and friend that I am honored to know and he has indeed enriched my life,of which I will forever be greatful. JRM

13 Cliff Jobes June 16, 2010 at 8:40 am

I just want to say, what an Honor it has been to know Papa Dan.
They just don’t make any more like him.
Semper Fi Dan.
Cliff Jobes

14 THOMAS SAVAGE June 16, 2010 at 2:39 pm

As the original owner of Confederate Books ( http://www.ConfederateBooks.com ) in Quito, Ecuador I met Pappa Dan back in the mid 90’s. He was by far the most interesting customer I ever had. A pleasure to be around and have a beer with. Our trip down the Rio Napo to Iquitos is one of my favorite adventures. I went to Ecuador expecting to meet many people of great interest but that was not the case. Pappa Dan is number one in my mind as the best person I met in 10 years of living in Ecuador. Thank you for being my friend.

Thomas Savage

15 Johnny, Chris and Suzy June 16, 2010 at 11:23 pm

hi Pappa Dan, you wouldn’t believe where i was 5 days ago!! There we were, johnny and Chris Seitz with Randy Smith in front of the old Pappa Dan’s in Coca Ecuador! We raised our hats to you and talked of the old days with you in Coca. One of my favorite memories of you Pappa Dan was when I stayed at you place in the wilds of Coca. There I was a good looking female ex-pat hanging in a petrolero jungle town at Pappa Dan’s house. It was a humid rain soaked night and you and I were sitting in the yard chatting it up. Pappa Dan decided to go to bed, i decided to stay up and read a book enjoying the clash of a jungle thunderstorm on a hot tin roof! You said good night and returned within minutes with a loaded gun and with that sometimes stone dead serious look you get in you deep eyes, you said, ” If anyone comes thru the gate, shoot to kill, no one has any business coming into my yard this late at night!” We laughed, but you made note you were serious, I promised to shoot, then finished reading A Peaceful Warrior, loaned to me by Michael. So, when you red this, know that Johnny, chris and mom Suzy love you dearly and always hold you in our prayers. waponi!!!!

16 Bruce Smith June 17, 2010 at 7:48 pm

Pappa Dan,,I dont know if you relize it,,but you and Mike saved my life,,after going thru a divorce I was ready to kill,,Dan you and Mike both spent your time and energy on me for that first year,,I can never repay you,,anything you need,,just say it,,it will be done. My prayers are with you

17 Janice Henderson June 18, 2010 at 8:51 am

Dear Dan,
It was such a privilege and an honor to meet you 2 years ago at the Lost Battalion reunion. Thank you so much for letting me interview you about your experiences as a POW in Burma. You were so generous to share your stories and memories that I know were painful for you to remember. I will never forget the story of your two friends bringing you the duck eggs. I hope you liked the story about you and Luther on the radio–thousands of people heard your voice telling the story of your courageous friends and of your love for them. You have touched many hearts–thank you for your willingness to share your experience. You are a kind and loving man.
Janice Henderson

18 Randy Smith June 18, 2010 at 10:12 am

I rember the days back in the early 90s when I began working with Papa Dan and Michael. Who could forget the trips to the Shiripuno River, Panacocha and the ice cold rum and cokes that accompanied us. How about the hot nights in Coca when I sat with Papa Dan and whomever showed up for drinks. The most interesting people on the planet showed up at Papa Dans for his awesome hot sauce, conversation and commentaries and of course rum and coke with lots of ice. Working with Papa Dan was an amazing experience. He makes everyone feel like they are someone special and it is a pleasure to know this man and his positive energy. He arrived in Coca and I was priviliged to be a part of his life and him, a major part of mine. The Waorani love him and all of Coca loves him (even the thieves) – people still ask about him – it is hard to forget Papa Dan. Now that he no longer lives in Coca, our memories and his good thoughts still enrich our lives. Papa Dan, I will have a drink to your health on Sunday before heading off to Panacocha. I will say hi to the dolphins for you and the magic that you carry and the dolphins carry will forever be in my heart. You are a great friend, you inspire me and – you are a blessing to the planet and everyone you love and who loves you.

19 Ken Pulis June 20, 2010 at 10:20 am

I remember the time in 2006 when I was in Peru with some extra days to spend so I contacted Dan to meet with him in Iquitos. I had not seen him since 1994, but had kept up with him by E-mail. We had limitied communication, so when I arrived in Iquitos on a Friday afternoon there was no one there to meet me. Dan knew I was coming, but he was no where to be found. As an oilfield hand and true to our way of life, I told the driver to take me to the best hotel in town, and upon arriving the receptionist told me that Papa Dan had left me a message. I guess Dan just figured that is where I would end up. Dan was on a boat trip down the river and would not arrive until Saturday morning. I had dinner on friday night then turned in and went to sleep. At six am on Saturday morning the phone rang and it was Dan. He said quite loudly ¨WHAT YOU GOIN TO DO, SLEEP ALL DAY? Then told me to come on down so we could have breakfast. We went to Dans favorite place in Iquitos, The Yellow Rose of Texas, and had a great breakfast. After that, Dan took me to introduce me to all of his friends, which took all day. That Saturday night Dan told me that we were going to a party where there would be a lot of booze, the only hitch was that it was a party of environmentalists and he told me not to tell them that I worked in the oilfield. We had a great time. I am so glad I had the opportunity to see him in Iquitos in all of his glory. He has many friends there and the locals have a lot of respect for him. It was good to see him in a place that he enjoyed so much. I will close for now, but Dan take care of yourself and I hope to see you once again in Iquitos!!!

20 Ray Doherty June 21, 2010 at 10:06 pm

I first ran into Pappa Dan in Guayaquil in 1971. We were both working in Logistics – he with Amoco, me with Ada Oil. Dan was air lifting 13 3/8 casing to his well in Montalvo on the other side of the Andes. My friend John Matulac and I were at the airport and I struck up a conversation with Dan and he casually asked us if we wanted to take a round trip and yes we would. Dan set us up with jump seats in the cockpit with the pilots and told us to count the volcanos enroute and we were airborne with the 13 3/8 casing. What a ride – we traversed the coastal lowlands, climbed over the Cordilla de los Andes, snow capped peaks, active volcanos, and jungle canopy. I remember that big Herc pretty well tore up the jungle airstrip on each landing and had to be completely graded for the next landing. Thank you Dan – it was one hell of a ride. Ray Doherty

21 Michael Buzzo June 22, 2010 at 1:55 am

Thanks Ray…that casing you flew out with was going to be set in what was at that time the deepest well ever drilled with a heli-rig. It, also, was the first (and as far as I know, the only) time the drilling line had been air-lifted to a location by Bell 205 helicopter…it took two of them flying the line between them as the lift capacity was between 12-14,000 lbs ea. They had to be careful to keep the rotors from touching and basically, if one chopper pilot had to drop his load…the other was dead. It sure made me a believer in those Colombian (HeliCol) pilots.

At that time, there were only two lighted airstrips in Ecuador; Guayaquil and that little jungle strip in Montalvo with a river at both ends designed only for STOL aircraft…1,305ft! I remember spending most of a summer out there…240 km from the nearest road…and on clear nights I would listen to the aircraft freqs. Often you would here something like, “…uh, Guayaquil tower, this is Braniff 207, we’re due for approach in approximately 52 minutes, uh, there’s a, uh, lighted strip below us in what we show to be all jungle and it’s, uh, not on our charts…could you, uh, verify, please”. I’ve always thought how neat that was that they could see those lights out in the middle of nowhere from at least 20,000 ft.

Those pilots with Southern Air Transport (CIA) did pretty good flying those C-130s into that little jungle strip with heavy loads, but of course they were all seasoned Vietnam War “cowboy” pilots with plenty of experience of flying loaded Hercs into jungle strips.

Pappa Dan went back 37 years later (1988), to do the same thing again for Tenneco. He’d been retired from Amoco for about 4 years and was not looking for work when he got a call one day saying they’d heard he was the man that had built that strip and drilled that well and if he’d be interested in doing it again.

Again, thanks Ray…I’ve always enjoyed hearing you tell that story about that trip you took and what an impression it made on you.

22 patricia ann king June 25, 2010 at 5:07 pm

Everyone has a hero in their life, Papa Dan is mine. I always told him that if I did not have a father, I wish it could have been him. If I lived in the U.S.A. I would have put him on Anderson Cooper´s hero list.

I think if you give him a plate of brocoli, he would rise to the call.

23 Jim King June 25, 2010 at 6:17 pm

Not many people in ones life gain a persons respect and I have been a lot of places and worked with Presidents, Dictators and all levels of politicians and none come close to you.. Papa Dan you gained my respect.

We had many three bottle of rum nights together and solved all the problems in the world. If Obama had you ( a staunch redneck Texan) on staff the world would be a better place if the rum didn´t run out during the important meetings.

He does like my wifes roast turkey and dressing with all the trimmings and we always had a good time no matter the circumstances which can be a little difficult at times in places like this. A lot of wonderful memories.

What pisses me off is that if you crash and burn Papa Dan , Paul Wright and a couple of others as Leo are the only Gringos in town older than me and they look old. Holy shit you are making me nervous.

Get your mind set on getting back here and all will be OK. You said you are going to drink the case of wine from the Lost Battalion last man standing bet. Just do it. Bring a bottle of that wine with you here when you come back.

You are an inspiration to all who meet you. GET WELL.

24 Pat Pennington June 27, 2010 at 10:05 pm

I think that I am a 2nd cousin. I was born on the day that Papa Dan got home from the war. My parents were good friends and very close to Dan and Peggy Buzzo. Dan’s first son Danny and I were about the same age and became close like brothers. In the early and mid 50’s I spent all my summers with the Buzzo’s. Lori was a brat and always followed us around so Danny and I would run off and hide from her. At that time Dan was working in the oil fields in Mexico but lived in Pharr, Texas. One morning Danny and I got up early in the morning and started eating cereal for breakfast. Dan joined us and also got a bowl of cereal. As he joined us we noticed bugs floating in our cereal & milk. Bugs (not ants) that looked like little worms had somehow gotten into the cereal box and we had been eating them with our cereal. At first Danny and I thought it was gross and then we decided that we wanted Lori to eat it. Papa Dan got upset and poured out the bowls and threw out the box of cereal. Then Dan did something that I have never forgotten. He stopped by the kitchen sink, put his head down and with tears in his eyes said a prayer. I will never forget that prayer. Then Danny got upset and worried about his dad and later Papa Dan told us that he had to eat bugs in order to survive in the Japenese prison camp. The bugs in the cereal had brought back bad memories. Sometimes things happen in life that will bring back bad memories, but as for me, all my childhood memories of living with the Buzzo’s are good ones. In closing, I liked being with the Buzzo’s so much that when I was 9 years old I ran away from home and hitch hiked from San Antonio to Pharr, Texas. When Papa Dan came home from work that day he asked me a question that I will always remember–“What were you thinking, you little shit!!!”

25 Robin Green June 30, 2010 at 12:43 pm

I love my uncle Dan. My first memories are of the lake. He and his family were always traveling and working overseas. But, when they came home to Texas it was always a treat. He was married to my aunt “Peggy” my fathers sister. I realy do not have the words to describe how much he meant to me in my childhood. They were always loving, and much more than that fun.

All I really can say he made a difference in a childs life. “Mine”

I love you and always will.


26 Dottie Hannasch July 1, 2010 at 5:22 pm

Dan,I treasure every moment I spent with you. I loved to sit out on the porch with you while you recited your poetry to me. You are and always be a big part of my heart!



27 Lori Buzzo July 3, 2010 at 7:27 pm

“Pappa Dan” is truly my pappa, and I have always been very proud to be his daughter! Life with Dad was always an adventure! Some of my earliest memories are of when he used to take me to the rigs in Mexico, because he was working so much that it was how he could get to spend time with me. Although I hated my life being disrupted as I was taken all over the world, following the “oil patch” – Mexico, Argentina, Iran – as I grew older I realized I was getting a better education than anyone could ever get in school. Long trips in the car on dark nights with Dad quoting poetry to keep us amused – road trips have never since been so comforting. (And when I had to study “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, my Senior year in high school, I already knew it because Dad used to recite it on those trips.) Dad has always been up for adventure, and he made growing up an adventure.

How many fathers read Roman myths or books of poetry to their pre-school children as bedtime stories? Or sit out in a dusty drive-way into the wee hours of a Texas summer night to see a meteor shower? Or turn a car around and retrace a trip of 150 miles because their daughter left her purse at his cousin’s, let her grab the purse, and then drive those 150 miles (plus 50 more) again without once saying a disparaging word? My father did all those things and so much more!

He is a true American hero and I am (and always have been) proud to be his daughter.

I love you, Daddy!


28 Julie Neukomm July 4, 2010 at 3:36 pm

Hi Dan,
My first memory was meeting you in the beer line at the American Embassy 4th of July party in Ecuador in 1992. You then whisked us off to the birthday party of the German woman at her restaurant in a remote village near Quito. What a great time we all shared. Because of you and Michael, we stayed in Ecuador for over a month – much longer than planned.
Our next meeting was in Seguin just a few years ago. The time we spent on your verandah under the stars just chatting is still fresh in my mind. I am grateful to have met you. Please accept my admiration and thanks for all you endured in keeping America free.

Julie (and Don)

29 Mark Gordon July 5, 2010 at 9:32 am

Dear Dan,

I see here in your ‘official bio’ that you were born in 1921. Did it ever dawn on you Dan, that you are very old to be such a young guy? I wonder if you even know what I’m talking about. I realize that a person with the weight of your life experience must feel old at times. But the fact is, if you ever felt old you always looked young and I admit I did not always admire that in you because it made me feel old.

I first made your acquaintance at the Gringo Bar at its second location in the Hostal Amazonas, “a clean, well-lighted place” as Hemingway once wrote, a quiet place where – however- the use of alcohol sometimes reached epidemic proportions, but you never took part in that. No, you kept to your own frequency and whether sipping on a case of beer, tippling a pitcher of martini, or nursing a liter of rum you always made hard drinking look easy. You drank like a young god. Thanks for that memory.

30 Kimberly Smith July 5, 2010 at 6:05 pm

I was reminded by a friend of a warm June night in 2009…

It is with the fondest memories I reminisce Papa Dan and his son Michael sipping Bourbon and Coke on the balcony well into the early morning hours. They savor the Island’s salty atmosphere and share stores under a waning moon. Papa Dan’s mind continues to amaze me as he sharp, witty and untiring at 88 in this year!
He begins to recite a lengthy poem, The Cremation of Sam McGee, he continues and then Michael begins to recite, and then his father would take over. It is beautiful to hear them recite this. It is like art! I listen and my heart is filled with gladness.
I am not sure when we finally retired to our beds for some sleep. But I think we all slept very well. If I remember correctly, Papa Dan took the uncomfortable rattan couch.
I have never met such a tough and gentle man as Papa Dan. Never have I heard him complain. Never. He has every reason to, and does not even whisper a grump! I see his sweet smile. My diamond.

Let’s go back to the Island, Papa Dan! I have a boat and a wonderful Captain friend waiting to take us out for a fishing trip. But most of all, I just want to be in your company. I always leave your presence a wiser lady.

Bet you didn’t think I would remember the waning moon did you? Please come back, and share your company. That weekend with you and Michael was a very special weekend which never is forgot.

I know this is again, another time of challenge in Papa Dan’s life.
Michael, anything you, Lori and Papa Dan need, tell me, I am there.

Love, Kimberly Smith

31 tom mccaleb July 16, 2010 at 10:53 am

I met Dan in Shushufendi in mid 1980’s at the Minga camp. Dan was living in Coca down by the river,had a bar called Papa Dan’s. I would go to Coca from Shushufendi at every opportunity to visit. Sit for hours talking and telling stories. Dan was a goog friend to me as well as to everyone who knew him and I think of him frequently. Am looking forward to seeing him again.

32 Maggie July 16, 2010 at 2:19 pm

Dear Dan,
The first time we officially met was at your & Pam’s house in Spring (1986?).
You were making lunch and what a lunch it was…fried rice, enchiladas and a huge pot of salsa on the stove!
I cherish our time together in the past and even so much more most recently.
You have touched so many lives and are a hero to all!
You are and forever will be my favorite father-in-law.
I love you,

33 Leslie Stephen July 17, 2010 at 6:28 pm

Dear Dan ~~

Daddy and I were reminiscing the other day about his 90th birthday party in McAllen, and how great it was that you and Mike and Lori made the trek all the way down there to celebrate with him. There are many wonderful pictures of the two of you “old guys” that night — the youngest and most fascinating guys in the family! — visiting and reminiscing about the good times we’ve had together.

That reminded me of your birthday party in Gruene that time — it must have been your 80th birthday — when we all got together on a beautiful fall afternoon. Never mind that your birthday was in April, you said, you were in Texas now and it was time to celebrate! What a great day that was, with all the pictures and clippings and stories of your service during the War and then, after much beer and bbq, some wonderful family lore and lies being passed on too . . . That day and all the fun days at Lake McQueeney with “Aunt Nerna’s gang” will stay with me forever.

Keep up the good fight, Dan. They don’t make ’em like you anymore.

Con carino y abrazos ~~
Tu prima Leslie

34 Lynn Stasey July 28, 2010 at 8:06 am

My Two Dads and how Dan became Papa Dan

Dan has always been a part of my life. From the time I can remember, Dan and Peggy, Lori and Michael have come to visit us in Stephenville. No matter what part of the world they were living in, they would make an almost annual trip to Stephenville to visit us.

My fathers met when Dan transferred to the Headquarters Battery at Camp Bowie in Brownwood, Texas. My Dad, Thomas B. Lumsden (Lum as he was called by friends and family), was already in the HB when Dan came to the camp. They became friends and then went on to survive being held as prisoners of the Japanese for three and a half years. They worked, slaved, and took care of each other while building the Death Railroad through the jungles. A deeper love, admiration, and caring of their fellow POWs has kept this group of men closer to each other than any other known bond.

I still remember clearly the day that my Dad broke down and cried on the phone when he got the call that Peggy had died. Both my parents were more upset than I had ever seen them. A year later, while attending the Lost Battalion Reunion in San Antonio, TX, my Dad died. He was with the people he loved the most, had danced every dance and then died in his sleep the night before he was to come home. My Mother was devastated and so was I over my Daddy’s death. Dan came to see my Mother and then had both of us come down and visit at Lake McQueeney. After a short while, Dan’s sister, Evelyn, told Dan that he and Pam, my mother, should get married. Dan said, “That would be like kissing my sister!” I guess he got over that because they did get married a year later. I do believe that he saved my Mom’s life when he did that. Not only did he provide her with the love, care, and companionship that she needed, but he showed her the world. I was pregnant with my first child when they got married. I also gained a real brother and sister that I had never had before, Lori and Michael.

My mother insisted that she would be called Grandmother and the decision had to be made on what we would have the baby call Dan. My Daddy is my sons’ Grandfather even though due to his early death they could never meet each other on this earth I still wanted to honor him with that title. So I came up with the name Papa Dan. Now it seems that the whole world knows him by this name. Like other celebrities you never again even need a last name to go with Papa Dan because there is no other like this beloved man.

He is such a charmer that even my children’s friends called him Papa Dan as do all our friends. His tales of grand adventures, people he knows, places he has gone, and the fact that he knows everything about rocks, games, etc. have all of us just looking forward to the next visit and story for him to share.

Papa Dan is the only Grandfather my children have ever known on my side of the family and I could not have ever found a better man for the job if I had even tried. Thanks Papa Dan for sharing your stories, love, and time with us! We love you!


35 Michael Buzzo July 30, 2010 at 4:51 am

Dan (Papa Dan) Buzzo

April 7, 1921 – July 27, 2010

But let us please not stop honoring him…let us continue to make that ‘dash’ between the dates something more than just an insignificant little mark to fill the void…

36 Ester and John King, USNR Captain, Retired July 30, 2010 at 10:13 pm

Running through the comments above, there is not much more I can say in here to honor a man who has given so much to so many. In an email off to Mike on the 28th of this July and in a confusing set of other correspondence to Mike and others on Dan’s passing, not enough can virtually be said, especially for my wife, Ester, who had been with Dan and family for about 12 years since Dan took her in as a household helper in the Philippines back in the early-to-mid 1980’s. Dan took Ester by surprise and gave her a trip to the US, where she stayed with Dan until I picked her up (after a 5-year semi-courtship) at Enchanted Oaks in Spring, Texas, in 1987. I formerly had a home there on Teller Boulevard (and then President of the Enchanted Oaks Civic Club albeit held a government position) – then changed to the Enchanted Oaks Civic Improvement Association, so Kathy Whitmore (excuse if the last name is wrong), Mayor of Houston, would grant us more political jurisdiction. Anyway, I took Ester away from Dan. I know he cried his heart out that day she left for Maine. Now, after nearly 23 years, we made a successful but near “last minute” contact, and seemed Dan, through his son, Mike, related the Facebook message to Dan that Ester was alright, had a 16-year old son in college; and we were married since 1988…so it went from there. Mike said Dan gave “two thumbs up” when he heard the news about Ester. I continued a couple of times to detail our life together via email to get Dan interested in Ester’s life…but maybe all he wanted to know was if his Little Ester was okay. She definitely was! There is a pall over all his friends and family at this time, and the most sincere condolences of love go out to the family and friends of Dan – all who knew him. Under the most amicable and personal situations or under the most strenuous, complex situations, Dan always had that “can do spirit”; now if we all can have a fraction of that spirit Dan had…well, you know what I mean.

37 Mike Collis July 31, 2010 at 8:25 am

To Mike Buzzo ,family and Friends of Papa Dan,

Please accept my most sincere condolences. I feel privilaged to have spent some time with that great man.
God Bless You Papa Dan.

38 chris seitz August 2, 2010 at 8:45 pm

Our condolences and love go out to all that shared time with Papa Dan. I can hear it know, his voice filled with emotion as he recited Kipling:
” By the old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin’ eastward to the sea,
There’s a Burma girl a-settin’, and I know she thinks o’ me;
For the wind is in the palm-trees, and the temple-bells they say:
“Come you back, you British soldier; come you back to Mandalay!”
Come you back to Mandalay,…”

waponi love peace compassion, c

39 Michael Buzzo August 3, 2010 at 1:07 am

Come you back to mandalay
Where the old flotilla lay
I can here those paddles chonkin’
From rangoon to mandalay

On the road to mandalay
Where the flying fishes play
And the dawn comes up like thunder
Out of china across the bay!!!!

Chris…how did you know???

40 Michael Buzzo August 3, 2010 at 1:49 am

Of course; you sat and listened to him recite one of his favorites, besides Gunga-Din, The Rhime of The Ancient Mariner, the Cremation Of Sam McGee, The Hiwayman, The Raven (by Poe), or anything by Robert W Service, like the Men That Don’t Fit In, The Face On The Floor, Dangerous Dan McGrew, A woman Named Lou… We sent him ‘home’ with a copy of Service in his a hand, a pack of cigarettes & lighter in one pocket, pen and paper in his other, and a cheap bottle of rum within easy grasp…he never drank rum in the states as it was “too expensive”. The last thing he swallowed was on June 20th, 2010 and that was a sip of 12 yo GlenLivet.

Thank you to all whom have contributed to this blog…please, don’t stop adding your thoughts and memories and recording them here whenever they might occur.

Happy Trails to you Pappa Dan…until we meet again, “mi gran amigo…Adios…nos vemos, mi querido”! Michael

41 Michael Buzzo August 3, 2010 at 3:13 am

(Mad Mick)
Thank you tocayo. You are, and have been such a special friend to Papa Dan (and to me). You are the type of friend that sort of stays in the background observing all, then comes running, without being called, when a friend is in need.
Thank you (and Bill) for all you’ve done to keep Dad’s legacy alive through the blog. Thank you for being his friend through thick and thin and thank you for keeping the legacy of Iquitos alive and for the original concept of the Amazon Golf Club + the Great Amazon Raft Race. I still hold dear my T-Shirt from the first annual Amazon Raft Race.
As Dad would say, “…good on ya, mate”. I know that’s more Aussie than Brit, but you have been a good mate to him.
I’ll never forget the day when you came running into the original “Gringo Bar” and said, “Oh bloody hell, I just met Paul Simon outside in the plaza”.
Cheers mate,

42 alan shoemaker August 7, 2010 at 10:46 am

As part owner of the old Gringo Bar in Iquitos, Peru, Papa Dan watched all the gringos coming and going, drinking, eating and conversing in English with the other gringos in Iquitos. One day he said to me, “Alan, you drink alot of beer. Maybe you should try rum and coke.” And he gave me a taste of his, ice cubes floating and it was just right. We had several together that day and it began a friendship that is forever. Dan’s still with all of us, his presence is everywhere I look. My two children Liam and Claire booked hours and hours with Papa Dan, he is like a Grandfather to them. Dan and I used to “tool around” in my Land Cruizer, he’d hold the rum and cokes as I drove and hand me one when we were at appropiate locations. The airconditioning one, windows frosting up, we had some great times in that Cruizer.
I had a big German shepard named Thunder and he could be quite intimidating, even dangerous. One afternoon we were sitting outside my living room, sipping on our favorite beverage and Dan decided that Thunder couldn’t be the arsehole that everyone believed him to be, and so he leaned down very slowly to give him a kiss on the snout. Dan got about an inch away and Thunder decided to give him a nip on the forehead, actually drew blood. I was stunned, didn’t know what to do really… and then Dan began laughing.
We arranged to have his golf clubs sent down because we knew that at some point we’d have golf carts and so we could ride around in those carts chasing the balls here and there and of course have a cooler with ice, rum and coke. Dan taught me that the ice was essential, without which we’d not partake. The clubs and bag are circa 1945-50. I’ve got them here at my house still and so when we finally do get those carts, I’ll stack Dan’s clubs in there with mine, stock the cooler and play a round with him. Can’t wait!
He’s gone, he’s not forgotten. He’ll remain here with me in my heart and soul forever. I love that man!
Blessings to you and Lori, Michael.

43 Michael Buzzo September 2, 2010 at 1:10 am

What can I say? It’s a true blessing to read your great words about Dad, a great man whom always considered you a great friend. The stories and accolades have brought tears to my sisters’ and my eyes, yet most of all true pride and joy in knowing that he indeed does live on in your heart!!! Thank you! We, also, appreciate your heartfelt words of sympathy you took the to write to us in the On-Line guestbook. It’s such a shame that less than twenty people thought enough of Dan to have taken the time to have written in a book that will always mean so much to us.
Alan, you are a true STAR in our lives and were a very treasured friend in Dan’s. I look forward to seeing you very, very soon and hoisting an R&C to a great man and to you…his great friend.
Thank you for all you did for Dan and for all you did to create fond memories of him and with him.
Your friendship toward him will always be treasured.
Thank you…
Abrazotes and blessings to you and yours,

44 Marty Martinez November 3, 2010 at 6:38 pm

I’ve been working in Coca, Ecuador over a year and off and on while in the military since 2007. The bar (Pappa Dan’s) is still going strong. Everyone here knows the story and the man. As a retired vet I salute a true hero and the quintessential American, absolutely unafraid. Hoo-Yah, Bro!

45 Helen Howard Morrell November 16, 2010 at 3:06 pm

Michael, Thank you for sharing the “website” You can see that Papa Dan was a kind and interesting human with a great capacity for love and adventure. I know that he will be remembered and remain in your hearts forever!

46 Peter Bailey February 2, 2011 at 5:49 am


Been a long time (1995)! For some reason I stumbled across this website when I was updating a couple of friends on my Facebook page and followed a lead or two as I do. On reading it through I wanted to write and offer my condolences to you and the family and to say thanks to both you and Dan for some treasured memories of Coca and Ecuador.
Some of my best memories of Ecuador were sitting in Dan’s garden down by the river at sunset enjoying a cold beer or R&C and escapades like the snake that escaped from the cage, the Puma (Garfield) that was in the garden for a while, the riverboat and not forgetting you chasing that guy off that followed me home one night – you probably saved my life!
Many, many thanks to both you and Dan and I hope to meet up with you again one of these days

47 Dan Harbaugh May 19, 2011 at 4:52 pm

I worked with Dan Buzzo about 1973 on a soils coring project to construct oil drilling platforms on in the jungle near Requena, Peru – up the Amazon from Iquitos. I’ve never forgotton this great gentleman, nor his service in WW II.

48 Dale Fessler October 5, 2012 at 9:25 pm

Wow, so sorry to hear about Dan’s passing on. Wish that I had heard sooner, but thank God for google. It was my great priviledge and honor to have met him and Mike in 1992 in el Coca, Ecuador, and over the next 4 1/2 years became great friends. There are so many great memories, relaxing at his river house, he was an adventurous cook, remember the tote sack of avacodos and the nonstop guacamole on handmade corn tortilla’s. I rememer all of the canoe trips we made up and down the river. And all of the stories, and also as one mentioned earlier the way he could quotes so many things from memorie. When I had my daughter Michelle with me that one month he was a loving grandparent for her in her first adventure away from home. Thank you Papa Dan for all of this and all of the lessons and memories. I will never forget you.
To the family and friends, my condolences, if you have access to my email from this entry please drop me a note, would be good to hear from you.

49 Steve Dukes April 23, 2016 at 1:02 pm

Last night as I was telling a friend about working in the Philippine oilfields in the early 80’s, one of my favorite recalled memories was Dan and Pam, and their hospitality. Dan was not only a great mentor and fun to be around, but having been a POW that never again wanted to be hungry, Dan was always generous with the omni-present great snacks in his briefcase! Yep, Dan is the type guy that left us with memories that sent us to google, after many years, because we just wanted to know ‘the rest of the story’. And what a great story this page is–Thank You!

50 Captain Bill April 25, 2016 at 6:31 pm

Thank you Steve, for adding your part of the story.

Wishing you the best,

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