21 June 2010

For Father's Day

The accuracy of this is based on my memory. Feel free to correct any facts.

Jay Charles Munns—a Brief Sketch of His Life

(Written for Father’s Day, June 20th 2010 by Vanessa Munns Dewey)

My father Jay Charles Munns, was born on June 2nd 1948 in Honolulu, Hawaii to Orlin Charles Munns and Opalgene Rawson Munns.

Early Childhood

It may seem strange to know my father was born in Hawaii but before you get any ideas that I’m half Hawaiian, I must tell you that my grandfather (or his father) was stationed there for the US air force and had served as a navigator pilot during WW2. My father and his family moved around a bit and then moved to sunny southern California where he was raised for the remainder of his childhood.

My father was named after his grandpa James “Jay” Arthur Rawson. My father in particular has many great stories to tell about his great grandmother Sarah Weaver Holt. She was a famous poet in Idaho and well-loved by many. My father spoke about how she was a great performer and would often recite monologues for the neighborhood children. One Halloween she dressed up as a witch and had such great acting skills, that she had all the neighborhood kids convinced that she was truly a witch! My father got plenty of attention with so many grandparents and great grandparents to smother him with love.

My father had a dog like all traditional American families but no one would guess what other pet he owned! He was a proud owner of a de-scented skunk named “Lucky.” Lucky was fun to have around and was as well-behaved as a house cat. Whenever my father had his piano lessons, his piano teacher would delight in having Lucky sit on her lap. Ever since I heard the story about Lucky the Skunk, it was my own dream to adopt one. Alas, it’s quite difficult so I surrendered this quest.

My father is an amazing pianist and began learning the piano at a very young age. It didn’t take long before he was able to pick out melodies and play by ear. He was also a very young composer. One of my favorite pieces of his is a nice little ragtime piece called “Jay’s Tune” where he goes gracefully from one end of the keyboard to the other end. He was able to find part-time jobs working at Shakey’s Pizza and other smoke-filled venues. [Imagine piano salon in smoky haze—romantic isn’t it?] Although he smelled like a smoker, this was a small price to pay to be able to entertain the bustling night scene.

My father developed a love of old music from his family, especially his grandmother, Virginia Holt Rawson, an accomplished violinist. He loved the complex yet wistful melodies from the early 1900s-1940s. You can imagine an older generation’s surprise seeing such a young kid whip out their music! He was instantly loved and he was proud of the respect that he earned.

Early Adult Years

My father was accepted to Brigham Young University and it only took him two weeks to find the love of his life, my mother, Cheryl Woolf Munns. His roommate and my mother’s roommate were dating and dragged them along on their dates. My father and my mother went on a date and played on a see-saw and from then on, see-saws are a reminder for them of their blooming romance. My father dutifully accepted a calling to serve a two-year mission in the Bristol England Mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and took a break from education while my mother waited for his return.

He loved his mission and developed a taste for British food (especially fish and chips dunked in vinegar!). He made many friends and converted many people. One of the few times he had a chance to talk to his parents on the phone he was shocked to hear how hard his mother pronounced her “R’s.” (Think: nails on a chalkboard) It would appear he adapted to the soft accent of the English, as well as adapting well to a delicious cookie called “Digestives.”

When my father got home from his mission he reunited with my mother and they decided to get married on June 12, 1970. My father continued his schooling, pursuing a law degree at BYU’s law school and my mother taught grade school full-time. They were a happy couple. My father got a part-time job at a pizza parlor and it was always an exciting treat to bring home extras for dinner. One time their little basement apartment got flooded but they were able to rescue many of their things without too much damage.

Family Life

My father took his sweet bride to southern California and continued to do a lot of piano side jobs and my mother got a job teaching in El Monte. There were plenty of amazing experiences including the birth of their first daughter, Valerie Munns. My father decided to open up a used piano/rental store and then later pursued a career involving law. One by one, little children filled the small home on Serenade Drive in West Covina. 1978 produced little Ryan Jay Munns. 1980 produced little Jeremy Charles Munns. 1982 produced little Kevin Woolf Munns, and finally 1984 produced little Vanessa Munns which required a move to a larger house on Holly Oak Drive.

My father was blessed to always find work in the field of law (Worker’s Compensation) through his extensive knowledge of networking, and at the same blessed to be able to share his musical talent though side jobs. He met amazing people throughout his musical career and had many great mentors. He also made life-long friends with some of the guys he jammed with. One of my most prized possessions are his group’s vinyl records reading “Jay and His Boys.” He was a quick-learner and many great musicians considered him their disciple. His music became something to be sought after. He has entertained many celebrities and even 2 U.S. presidents. His music is a rarity, cherished by those that remember and appreciate the style.

My father has also dutifully accepted many church callings including Bishop and 2nd counselor of the Stake Presidency. Many people have expressed their love and appreciation to me about the impact he made in their lives. I know my father lived with the spirit of God in his life and was able to teach and heal people that needed his wise guidance so much.

Later Adult

My father became the guardian of six precious grandchildren ranging from a baby to a teenager. Among their favorite things to do is taking trips to the family cabin in the San Bernardino Mountains and dancing around the piano while my father plays music. He loves sharing “his” music and teaching his grandchildren the words to songs that clearly no one else their age would know!

My father has received a boost of musical energy and is happily participating in two music groups: “The Stardust Trio” which is a trio consisting of piano, trumpet and drums, and a 1940s re-creation of the Andrew Sisters that call themselves “The Sentimental Sisters.” All over the San Gabriel valley do these two groups perform and bring so much joy to the older generation (and even younger generations!) who are able to relive old memories.


My father’s life has been full and meaningful. He is a wise father and great grandfather. His strength of character and morals has been and always will be an example for his descendents to look up to and follow. The only way to get to know my father better is to give him a call and to ask him yourself! I am sure he would love the call!


  1. Wow Vanessa, that was beautiful!!! I feel like I already know your Dad better just by reading this! Your so good with your words and expressions!

  2. So fun to read! It's wonderful that you know so many details of your dad's life. This made me want to sing with all the family while your dad plays! I bet your dad will treaure this. Miss you!

  3. Vanessa, this is fantastic. I always loved and admired my brother but this life story has even things I didn't know about. I'm sure this is the best gift he has received. Thanks so much!

  4. Wow that is one cool post. Kev & I just made a blog too:) well i made it hehe

  5. That's awesome, Ness! I bet Dad loves it! I didn't even know about "Jay's tune"

  6. WONDERFUL tribute and yes, here's a little editing note. Jay attend Loyola law school in L.A. (not BYU). Cheryl and Jay moved to L.A. right after his graduation from BYU and never looked back (in fact I don't think J Reuben Clark Law School began until 1973). Had a nice visit with your mom a weekend ago-ish. She needed "just a few more things" from Chicos:)