"ARTHUR'S BACK YARD" (Rosheila Robles photo)

My wonderful old friend, Arthur J. Paul, died early this morning—of bone cancer, congestive heart failure, double pneumonia, some kind of enzymes thing in his kidneys or was it his liver and I think at least one other thing, and as I recite this list I can almost hear Arthur cutting me off with the kind of bottom-line summary that he preferred to long litanies of any kind of problem. “David!” he’d say in the air-horn voice that kept things moving on the construction sites he oversaw most of his 75 years. “The body isn’t made to work forever. The parts get old, they wear down, people die.” Arthur J. Paul was sentimental that way.

No, really. No matter how matter-of-fact his assessments, they were not heartless. They were consoling—redirecting focus from the pain of the moment to the beautiful point of it all: life, lived well now, because it will not last forever.

I was a mess when I met Arthur J. Paul in the early 1990s—alcoholic, drug-addicted, broke and broken—and he always seemed to be messing with me: standing too close, talking too much, and when I finally thought I’d gotten away, hugging me … too long.

Arthur decided we were friends, then seemed to take advantage of it—volunteering me for projects, commitments, offices, always asking for my opinions when I thought I was making it clear that I didn’t have (or want to have) any, and ultimately thanking me for all of it as though these decisions and ideas had been mine.

Eventually, they did become mine. Realizing it was futile to resist, I began to volunteer before Arthur could to it for me—if I couldn’t avoid the commitment, why not at least spare myself the aggravation? I began to listen and consider and form opinions—it was better than being caught unprepared. I began to stand my ground when Arthur stood too close, and I got used to him being in my space. I began to open my arms for a hug when those conversations ended, and I stopped trying to get away before he decided we were done.

Arthur and I became friends. We were part of a group that regularly ate Friday evening dinner at Hof’s Hut on Long Beach Blvd, that attended the big events in each other’s lives, that shared our souls and tweaked our idiosyncrasies. Arthur remodeled my house, I presided over his wedding ceremony at the Japanese Gardens at Long Beach State, the renewal of those vows five years later at his enchanting home in Bixby Knolls and at the scattering of the ashes of his father-in-law in the ocean off the Long Beach coast just five weeks ago.

Arthur had been ill for awhile and his health had become delicate. With that air-horn voice and that strong frame and indomitable personality, that seemed almost impossible. But it’s true: The body isn’t made to work forever. The parts get old, they wear down, people die. The beautiful point of it all is to live our very best while it lasts.


Back in December 2008, Theo Douglas wrote this story for The District Weekly about the Depression-era tract home that Arthur J. Paul and his wife, Lori, turned into a celebration of what they valued.

Categories: The Boulevardier
  1. Dave Hinkle
    April 2, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    Sorry about your friend, Dave. Touching eulogy.

  2. jesse
    April 2, 2010 at 11:25 pm

    AJP was a very good man, my wife and I had the privilege of meeting him since he did out construction on our home. My wife had the privilege of talking to him about where his eternal destiny would be if and when he would pass on, he had accepted Jesus Christ as his savior, so it leaves no question where he is at. He is smiling at us right now, since he is with our Savior.

  3. Julie
    April 3, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    Way to miss the point, Jesse. Beautiful piece, Dave.

  4. steve
    April 3, 2010 at 8:20 pm

    R.I.P. Arthur was my neighbor, but I found out he passed away through this blog. Nice eulogy. Thanks. I will miss talking and seeing him

  5. Louise
    April 4, 2010 at 7:10 am

    It’s a beautiful tribute to what sounds like a very good man. As always, thoughtful and touching writing.

  6. April 7, 2010 at 7:38 am

    I was Arthur’s first daughter. I went to visit him and his wife in October. We had been estranged for 8 years. The visit was nice but awkward. He was married to a women only 4 years older then me. He met my daughter, his granddaughter for the first time in her life. She is 15. When I returned home my father called me to tell my that my daughter had wrecked his computer, left the tv on and moved something in his wife’s cabinet. He called her a spolied girl and me a bad parent. His wife cried for 4 hours about eBay. I found it odd that he could judge me as a parent when he walked out on us when I was young. His wife’s only parent skills came from a blind dog and two cats. I guess you all are lucky. He was a better friend to all of you then a father to me. After my visit in October and his follow up phone call I realized he cared more about his friends then he ever did about his own family. It’s hard for my children and myself to grieve for someone we hardly knew.

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: