I remember the first time I met Paul. It was at Southwestern behind the Student Center building. Eldon came walking up with this giant beside him. Eldon: "This is my brother, Paul." Paul: "I'm Eldon's baby brother." And then that laugh. I liked Paul instantly - he had a smile as big as he was and was very charming and smart. I remember asking if he was coming to Southwestern next year: "No, I'm going to the University of Arkansas to study Electrical Engineering and play football." I was disappointed - tho I figured Arkansas would have a great football team.
I didn't see a lot of Paul over the next few years, but when he moved to Memphis in the early-to-mid seventies, he re-established contact thru Eldon. During that year prior to my moving to California, Paul and I became good friends. His friends were mostly Eldon's and my old Southwestern classmates, so we moved in the same circles and saw a good bit of each other. And we connected at a level deeper than I did with most folks I knew. He would come over to my wife's and my apartment - I remember a crazy Fourth of July night there - or we would visit him at his apartment which was also in midtown and had a swimming pool. We'd run into each other from time to time as well. If I went to a movie and it was funny and Paul was there, all of us who knew Paul knew he was there because his magnificent laugh would completely fill the movie theater.
After I moved to California, I didn't see Paul for about 3 years. I didn't visit Memphis and he wasn't traveling with his job in those days. The next time we connected, he came to pick me up at a Sears store in South Memphis where my sister and her husband were dropping me off. I recognized him immediately; except somebody had stolen his hair! That visit in 1977 was when I got to know Paul on a deeper level and our friendship really began to grow.
In 1978, he was rooming with Rick Larsen in midtown when I came thru town. And it really was a blast those couple weeks! I lived in the attic and we partied hardy. I was just leaving on my 3 year trip around the world and during those years, Paul stayed in touch with occasional letters. That's how I heard about Kathy (and Richard) coming into his life and about Kristie's birth.
When I returned to Memphis, I didn't tell anyone I was coming. I remember dropping off my friend Gwen at her work at 7 AM one morning and driving in her car to where Paul and Kathy were now living. I didn't want to ring the doorbell at that early hour, so I just sat in the car until I saw Paul come out and pick up the newspaper. So I hopped out and went up and met this great family Paul now had. I was in Memphis for about 6 weeks that fall and saw a lot of Paul and Kathy and Richard and Kristie (who was about 2 months old). I remember a Saturday afternoon going over to watch Arkansas play football against Texas. Watching any sporting event with Paul was a lot of fun; watching football, which was the favorite of both of us, was really fun; but watching Arkansas play football was a total trip! If the game was tight and things were going Arkansas's way, Paul would not move for fear that doing so would somehow upset the good vibes. And of course you could never speak to him, except MAYBE about the play that just happened or the one that was up coming; certainly about nothing else. But this particular afternoon, Arkansas beat the heck out of Texas from the opening kickoff and was doing such a thorough job of it, that even Paul could relax and enjoy the game.
I returned to San Francisco just in time to witness the 49er's first Super Bowl victory. To get to the Super Bowl they had to beat Paul's Cowboys (how he could cheer for them Texas Cowboys, him being from Arkansas, I never understood). It was a classically great game and afterwards Paul phoned me to "congratulate" me. That started our long standing custom of the "loser" of 49er - Cowboy games always calling the winner after the game. We stayed in touch by phone at other time as well.
I continued to visit Paul and Kathy on my trips to Memphis, which now were becoming annual events. I had long ago discovered that his heart, as well as his intellect, was even bigger than he was. I really enjoyed all those visits. He and Kathy visited me in San Francisco for a week one time and that was great fun. His business travels brought him to California so that we connected out there on other occasions. And I always looked forward to seeing Paul. Over these close to 30 years, our friendship did nothing but get deeper and deeper. I really came to see him as a truly remarkable human being. We could talk computer stuff, we could talk football, we could talk airplanes (another of his passions) and of course we talked women. I was always dazzled by his business sense, of which I had none and he had tons. His sense of humor was wonderful, with that totally memorable laugh, and we had a lot of fun. Just to have a friend with that much depth and who was so much fun was is a a true blessing.
The last time I saw Paul was at my father's funeral this past November. He had briefly met my father on a few occassions, but he and Eldon came to the funeral to support me. Paul was like that.
Paul, thank you for being such a great friend. Thank you for all the wonderful times we shared. It is a privilege and an honor to have know you for your all too brief stay on this planet. I know that where you are now, they are partying like it's 1999 and your laughter is booming thru the halls!
Leigh Brasington, 2 March '99
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