I saw on my LA home ward facebook page the news that Wm Paul died peacefully yesterday at the age of 96, per his adopted son (who was quite the obnoxious little brat when I knew him). He was also the adoptive father of one of the truly sad girls I knew while growing up in the San Fernando Valley. Anyway, his passing provides the impetus for this perhaps slightly weird and somewhat gossipy post… which ought to be rewritten at some point. (Good luck with that.)
Of the memorable Pauls I have known, first and foremost is my "middle-younger" brother. Last of the four of us born in New York, he apparently was the baby who could not tolerate car rides. Unluckily, we moved from Chicago to Los Angeles via Seattle (world's fair!) by car (visiting Mt Rushmore and "Jellystone Park" en route). He screamed the whole time, according to my parents. I have no recollection of this, but that may be because my desperate parents ended up drugging him in some fashion so as not to lose their minds.
One of my favorite memories of Paul in Canoga Park is his escaping the house at bath time and jumping on his tricycle and riding around the cul-de-sac stark naked, all while laughing maniacally. Most deliberately-posed photos of him show his manic smile.
He could and did get into everything. My dad ended up closing off his workbench with some kind of locked chicken-wire doors, but padlocks were never an impediment to Paul's inquisitiveness. He took apart all kinds of things. I do not know if he was able to put things back together with the same facility. That he was good with mechanical things was clear, and he ended up being the go-to Audio-Visual guy at Portolá Jr High while there.
He served in the Utah Salt Lake City South mission — he hadn't wanted to serve a foreign mission (not sure if it was a case of foreign languages not coming easily to him or just what),… but I don't think serving in Magna and Provo had really been what he'd had in mind. Still, he enjoyed his time there, what with members showering the missionaries with all kinds of then-unheard-of perks (free meals at member-owned restaurants, free dry cleaning, etc.). He was actually able to save money while on his mission.
He was fascinated by firefighting and ended up (iirc) becoming a volunteer paramedic for a time. He was precluded from getting hired by a hammer toe (though apparently he and others felt racial quotas were more to blame; otoh, he wasn't a vet and vets were justly given priority).
His love-life was non-existent prior to and for some while after his mission, to the point where I think my parents were wondering about whether he was gay. He met Dorothy and fell for her hard. They were as typically all over each other as could be (in a Mormon context) when I met her. The change was astounding to me. (Their relationship has had its troubling aspects in the ensuing years, alas, but they are still together.)
As for Wm Paul, there were two Paul Smiths in my LA home ward, both of whom customarily went by Paul, but by mutual agreement the one who was my first bishop in that ward, and who was the architect for our home ward chapel, was always referred to as "Paul A," and the other — well, I never, ever heard anyone call him simply Paul (except possibly for his wife Dorothy), but always William Paul. My mom and I carpooled with Dorothy to So. Calif. Mormon Choir rehearsals and concerts for years (my mom for far longer, of course).
Theirs seemed in many respects to be a marriage of unequals: Dorothy was well-educated; Wm Paul was blue-collar (I'm pretty sure he made his living as an exterminator); Dorothy was cultivated — a talented musician, and well-read; Wm Paul was a bit rough around the edges. Their adopted daughter used to tell me that she was afraid they'd divorce. Anyway, they stayed together; Dorothy died of brain cancer some 20+ years ago. While she was a bit "off" when I had the chance to see her not long before she died, at least she recognized me and we had a mostly coherent conversation.
I will save my most memorable moments with Wm Paul and/or Dorothy, as well as my dealings with their daughter, for a different time. (Weekend trip to the desert sales-pitch condo; trip up to Youth Academy.)
I know Wm Paul remarried and that his second marriage seemed to be happier than the first. My parents kept in close touch with Wm Paul (and Dorothy and then Melba) over the years. My dad served as a cubmaster with Wm Paul while both my brother Paul and Wm Paul's son Brad were Cubs. (Insert photo of the flag-raising here, featuring brother Paul's blindingly manic smile.)
Other Pauls: per above, Bishop Smith. I don't really have many personal memories of the man — I don't remember interacting with him as my bishop. My dad served either in his bishopric or as the ward clerk at the time. When we first moved into the ward, we met over in a strange little church building on (I think) Amigo Avenue. It had belonged to some evangelical group, I think. When our building on Topeka Drive went up, that building was sold to… not sure what kind of group, but some sort of free-thinkers or … well. All I know is that they painted a bunch of ritual symbols on the back wall behind the podium that they kept covered up with a curtain. It was our joy as Primary kids to look at those symbols with the black light on. Weird.
There was a little pastor's cottage adjacent to the church that served as the bishop's office. Supposedly after all the church work was done on Sundays, my dad and the others would sit around and play Pinochle and "diminishing bridge" (aka "oh hell"). Given how fond my dad was of pinochle, I don't find it hard to imagine that this was true (at least sometimes).
Paul A was married to Wanda, a… loquacious woman who to this day is not shy about giving her opinions (nor is she shy about administering "the garment grope"). Iirc, he died of a heart attack at or around age 56 following a fall from a roof in which he'd seriously ripped open a leg (with significant bleeding). (More re: his son Craig in another post.)
The only other Paul of note that I can remember at the moment is Elder Park, who served as my first zone leader when I got transferred to Lille and ended up struggling to survive my time with Sister H. He and the AZL, Elder Shane, did their best to schedule district work days and to otherwise provide support and relief. They lived on the 8th floor in the same building we did (on the 17th). Park was on his way home and left after my first month there in Mons-en-B (replaced by Elder King)… Park was definitely trunky at the end, but no surprises there.