My friend, Paul, was a most memorable guy. I first met Paul when I was 15 years old and he was 17, but I had known of him for years as we attended the same church and Catholic school. If there was fun to be had, Paul, or “The Rock” as he was lovingly known, was the first one in the pool. Or on the bus, or to arrive at the festivities. The Rock was always the life of the party wherever he stood. Whether he was playing timpani in church, marching with the Sancians drum corps, or singing frat songs at the top of his lungs in an elevator, he was definitely having the best time of anyone within earshot. And if you were a witness, you were included in the good times – he was impossible to ignore. The Rock had a contagious attitude of goodwill and love for all in his path. Like all of us, there were times when he doubted himself, but mostly he was full of love and life.
Paul was highly intelligent and had a wide array of interests; deep in his bones, though, he was a musician. Percussion was his specialty – in drum corps he played bass drum, toms, timpani, and xylophone (we called them “bells”). In addition to many years marching with the St. Francis Xavier Sancians, he spent time as an altar boy, the manager of the BC High football team, an engineering student, an employee of the Boston Flower Exchange, then briefly joined the seminary until he decided that would not be a good career choice for him.
Paul’s life was cut drastically short at age 29, when he was taken from us by a massive heart attack, yet those of us who loved him feel he’s still with us, due to both the funny stories of him we find occasion to share, and his famous catch phrases. If ever you made a stupid mistake in his presence, Paul’s biggest insult was to call you “hockey puck.” At the other end of the spectrum was his all-purpose feel-good phrase “keep on truckin’” – if you needed a boost, or felt tired or discouraged, you could count on The Rock for a heartfelt “keep on truckin’”, which provided the desired result almost every time.
The Rock was a strong and reliable friend whose unique spirit influences my life even now, almost 28 years after his death. I’ll keep on truckin’, my friend. Thanks for everything.