Joseph Oliver Paul Nov. 2, 1935 – Aug. 25, 2013

“An aged man is but a paltry thing, A tattered coat upon a stick, unless Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing For every tatter in its mortal dress,” – William Butler Yeats

For the last 21 years, my father couldn’t sing. But in a way, his life was his song, a gift he gave to us.

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Joseph Oliver Paul

Joseph O Paul

Joe Paul

Joe…  loathed his middle name.  The mischievous daughter in me particularly enjoyed writing out checks to Joseph O Paul because I knew he hated it when the bank teller asked, “What does the O stand for?”

He was my father but like ever one else, I just called him Joe.

My father was not a rich man. He didn’t leave behind a big bank account or a successful dynasty, but, he did leave behind many people who love him.

Joe worked hard most of his life, he had to, his own father died when he was 13. They were building a stone wall together when his father collapsed and died. As the oldest, he became the man of the family, taking on part time jobs to help support his mother, younger brother, and baby sister.  Summers picking strawberries and tending chickens on his cousin’s farm were not easy but it was for his family.

A few years ago my mother was clearing out some papers and found an acceptance letter from Brown University. He never told my mother he had been accepted at Brown. When she asked him why he said, “couldn’t afford it- didn’t matter.” He had to move on.

Joe’s life was touched by tragedy more than once.

On Thanksgiving night, 1957, his 17 year old brother was killed in a car accident. He happened upon the scene with his uncle. What he saw was devastating, but he pulled himself together, went home, and helped his mother through the nightmare. The shirt Johnny gave him for his birthday that year remains unopened to this day resting in his dresser draw.

Tragic events like this might have broken a lesser man. But not Joe.

It taught him how to help others through their difficult times.  Whether it was a terminal illness or unexpected death, he was there. He knew what need to be done and did it.

Joe himself survived a cancer that left him unable to speak without a mechanical aid.  I don’t remember the sound of my father’s natural voice but I do remember how people stared at him in restaurants when he spoke with the speech aid. It never bothered him; in fact, many times he turned and patiently explained to them, “This is what happens if you smoke.”

He volunteered at schools, telling his story to youngsters, hoping to dissuade them from smoking. He believed if he stopped just one kid from smoking, it was worth it.

Joe’s granddaughters idolized him. And he spoiled them, driving the long way home from day care to give them enough time to finish the extra-treats he snuck them. My mother and I never knew.  He loved them unconditionally. He was their “Grandpa Joe.”

Joe made sure I had what I needed too. More than once he hurried to my house to repair a broken pipe late at night or bring me a second set of keys when I locked myself out of my car. (Twice in the same month, it’s a talent, what can I say?)

Christmas mornings at 5 Bowman Lane were magical. Joe loved that day. Friends dropped in and out to share greetings and a drink. We’ve missed that the past few years.

A good neighbor, he was quick to offer a hand with a project or a job that needed doing, whether it was pouring concrete or bringing in a field of hay. He was friendly too, making sure to wave every time you drove by.  Although he learned the hard way you should put the rock down before waving or suffer a broken foot.

Joe was generous with his time. For as long I can remember, he spent every Thanksgiving preparing dinner for local elderly at the Knights of Columbus hall.  As painful as Thanksgiving was for him personally, he spent it helping others.

That was just who Joe Paul was, for his heart was immense and he willingly shared it with us, never asking anything in return.

I am grateful to have known him and privileged to call him my father.

I love you Dad. You are missed.

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3 Comments on “Joseph Oliver Paul Nov. 2, 1935 – Aug. 25, 2013”

  1. Alan Clements Says:

    Sorry to hear of your loss Anna.

    Alan


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