PORT ARTHUR —
“Oh, I can’t forget you
My whole world turns misty blue.”
Listeners of KSAP 96.9 LFPM “The Breeze” radio station are familiar with “Misty Blue,” the smoky tune that meant DJ Johnnie B. “PaPa Sunnyman” Allen was on the air.
“Thank you for joining PaPa Sunnyman’s show,” Allen would say to his listeners, as he played their favorite old-school blues tunes. “Worship God your way. Tomorrow is a new day.”
Allen died Saturday at age 84, after a bout with pneumonia exacerbated by prostate cancer. And just as his signature song states, his family, friends, dedicated listeners and the entire community of Port Arthur couldn’t forget him if they tried.
“It won’t be the same when you turn ‘The Breeze’ radio station on,” Michael “Shane” Sinegal, Jefferson County Precinct 3 Commissioner, said. “He was really a legend here.”
Precinct 8 Constable Eddie Collins, who knew Allen from his time as a volunteer crossing guard at Booker T. Washington Elementary School, agreed.
“He was, I would say, the ultimate PaPa,” Collins said. “He was the type of guy that everyone loved.”
The Elizabeth, La., native moved to Port Arthur at an early age, and in 1945, wife Nora said, he “decided to catch a ship.” Allen did just that, beginning as a cook.
Allen served two years in the United States Army during the Korean War. During his service, he broadcasted enemy attack coordinates to American troops. Nearly a decade after his discharge, in 1961, Allen received his license from the Federal Communications Commission. He worked as a merchant marine until his retirement in 1989, transmitting messages between ports and home.
So when Stephen Mosely secured his license to begin “The Breeze” in 2003, he had no farther to look than Allen, who married Mosely’s cousin Nora in early 1963.
“It’s in his blood,” Nora Allen said. “That’s what he loved to do. He had an operating station here in the house.”
Together, Mosely and Allen compiled the packets for the station’s funding and held auctions for equipment, and in 2004, they launched their non-commercial public radio station “to give citizens a voice,” Mosely said. Aside from his jazz, rhythm and blues show, Allen handled all the station’s engineering, including equipment repair, upkeep and compliance with stringent FCC regulations.
“He was an easygoing guy, but he was fair and he was tough,” Mosely said. “He has been very instrumental in helping folks learn to recognize their talents.”
Allen also served as a mentor to area teens. Mosely said that the motto he shared with them was, “Know your job. Know what you’re doing, and it’ll all work out.”
Allen certainly abided by that motto, those closest to him agreed.
“I used to call him the walking dictionary,” Collins said. “He knew just about everything that you asked about.”
Allen’s job as a merchant marine took him to faraway lands, from the Virgin Islands, to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, to the pyramids of Egypt. His extensive traveling experience allowed him to form a bond with just about anyone.
“People would call in from different parts of the world, and they’d mention a places where they were from — places he’d traveled to,” Mosely said. “They’d get to talk with someone who was familiar with who they were and where they came from — and even the corner store near their house.”
Allen was active to the very end, never hesitating to climb 100-foot transmission towers at The Breeze. He wrote this phrase on a sheet of paper: “It is better to move forward stumbling than to sit still grumbling.”
“He never did say anything about hurting,” Nora Allen said. “Since he had been retired, my dinner would be cooked at 10 a.m. All of my friends can attest to it, because they would tease me about it.”
Friends will remember Allen as a quiet, “stick to business” kind of man who knew his craft and “kept it real,” Mosely said.
“His legacy would be his ability to help us all discover our hidden talents,” Mosely said. “Because Nora loved him and loved what he did, she gave him as a gift to Port Arthur and the world.”
PORT ARTHUR —
“Oh, I can’t forget you
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