Paul’s Goodbye

Paul’s daughters, with help from the rest of us, put on a great memorial for Paul. It was held at the Moose Club in Petersburg. At Paul’s request. It was his go to place to take people for dinner. And where he participated in sports’ pools for decades. The place was packed.

Kris gave a long biography of Paul’s life. I think everyone there learned something they didn’t know about Paul. I didn’t know Paul had been on the city council at one time. There were lots of pictures of Paul on tables, and many of the model airplanes he made in his lifelong hobby hung from the ceiling.

His grandson told a funny story about bugging his grandpa all day on the boat about seal bombs, and at the end of the day, Paul finally relented and uncharacteristically handed his grandson a lit seal bomb!  The grandson retreated to the back deck and threw it off the boat before it blew his fingers off.

I met Paul on the road from Freetown to Bo in Sierra Leone in about 1987. His daughter Nina had arrived as a Peace Corps volunteer a year before me from Georgetown, where she attended college with Patrick Ewing. She worked in a coastal village introducing improved fish smokers, if I remember correctly.

I had just graduated from UAF, and, on the advice of another mentor, Don Jackson, I joined the Peace Corps to work as a fish farming extension agent. Paul and Nevette were over visiting Nina and I just happened to meet them on the road. This was before I met Sara or lived in this part of Alaska.

Years later, I would meet and marry Sara when I moved to Juneau. Sara, it turns out, had been friends with Nevette since they were in high school. Paul came up to me at a troller meeting in Petersburg when I was there working for ADFG in about 1997. It was the first time I’d seen him since we met in Africa.  That started a friendship that grew stronger every year till he passed away this past Aug 1.

Paul and his best friend Tyler duck hunted together for decades. Paul was very secretive about just where they went down the channel from the house. So much of that trip was tradition and culture between the two of them. I knew I was “in” when I got invited on my first of several duck hunts with Paul.

Their duck blind was a large tree that had, I assume, come down the Stikine River. Paul said the tree had been there since he first came there duck hunting – so likely the late 1960’s or early 1970’s. The saltwater had preserved it well.

You had to get to the island as the tide was flooding, and be sure you left before the tide had fully ebbed, or you might be there another tide cycle before you had enough water to get home or back to the Forest Service cabin. We beached the boat on the shoreline opposite the tree, then hauled in more shells then we’d ever shoot in a weekend. Then the beer.

Paul tossed out decoys onto the mud flat in front of the log blind at shooting distance. When the tide came in far enough, it would float the decoys, and then the ducks should start flying in to them.

Paul then told me he hoped I didn’t mind, but since we had to wait for the tide, he and Tyler liked to enjoy a beer waiting for the ducks. Sounds good to me, I said. Then he said we also like to listen to the Seahawks game (it was a Sunday) that was carried by the local Christian radio station, as it didn’t seem to bother the ducks.  I told Paul I thought maybe we were Siamese twins separated at birth!

Paul sat at one end of the log, and Tyler at the other in the root wad.  They had me a short distance from Tyler is some other sort of woody cover. I’d hear Paul yell down to Tyler asking if the game was on yet, and Tyler would yell back, “No Paul, it’s time to pray!”. That was the beginning, really, of a lifelong relationship.

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From that point on, the phone calls between us became more frequent. In the last decade, they were weekly and more. I started going down to Petersburg for every Super Bowl, and we were joined by Kris, Steve, and Dick – and Tyler when he was in town. All now my friends, too. In later years, I also went down for the college football championships, and maybe a college basketball final.

The night before Paul’s memorial, Sara helped Nevette and Nina and Andrew and Peter put on a meal for several dozen people who gathered at the family house on arrival from out of town for the celebration. King and coho salmon from Petersburg, moose sausage, Portugal seafood tins, and imported cheeses from us, and baked goodies for desert from the in-towners that joined us.

The family house has become one of the most familiar houses I know now, having spent so much time there over the past decades. I always feel at home there, and glad the girls are hanging on to it.

After Paul’s celebration at the Moose, we again gathered that evening at Paul’s house, with left overs from the night before and left overs from the Moose Club. Most of the wine and booze was taken care of as well.

The next morning, Steve rode his ebike to the house, and he and I went up to the Petersburg landfill for scavenge day. We got there shortly after opening at 9 am, and one guy who had got there before us was busy taking part an electric box of some kind. A fresh 4 inches of snow overnight covered everything, making it a little difficult to see just what was there.

I wasn’t looking for anything in particular. The last time I was there, I was looking for seine netting, which I found right away in a recycle tote designated for fish netting. Then Steve helped me get some beautiful aluminum plate that now serve as the bases for the downriggers and pole holders on the tug. I also gathered hundreds of dollars worth of stainless steel nuts and bolts and washers.

On this morning, I spotted some kind of structure that may have been an antenna tower, all taken apart and in a bundle. There were multiple heavy wires with loops crimped in both ends that were stays to hold the tower in place. Each end was attached to a pad eye with a stainless steel quick link. I tried loosening one of the links by hand, and it backed right off. Soon, Steve and I were busy removing every link on the pile of antenna tower. We got 37 of them in the end, worth about $300 or more at the hardware store. Steve took some lengths of the wiring and a couple links to use on Paul’s boat, and that’s all he wanted. I took the rest of the links home with me to Juneau. They will come in handy on the boat or for pulling logs down the hill if I can keep track of them, which is always an issue with a hoarder.

We got back to the house from the dump at 1030 am, and people were gathered for coffee and pastries. Most of us were on the 1 pm flight north to Juneau and beyond. An hour later, we started to filter out to drive the short distance to the airport and fly to Juneau on a beautiful crisp sunny winter day.

Paul would be happy with his weekend.

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