Paul C. Voegtlin, My Eulogy of a Great Man

It has been a year since my grandfather, Paul C. Voegtlin, passed away and I’m sharing my remembrance of him with you.

There is no measure of greatness that I know that my grandfather wouldn’t break the scale. Yet, there are no history books that will recount his love, his care, his hard work, and his dedication.

No history book is going to record how much everyone loved my grandfather. Everyone who had the honor of knowing my grandfather, Paul Voegtlin, was truly blessed. He was loved by all, and I’ve yet to meet a single person who ever had a negative word to speak of him. As a kid, I’d ride along with him as he worked — we’d hop in his blue pickup truck and head over to Dewhurst Lumber, or grab a donut at Mister Donut, or stop at the bank or the Post Office. Wherever we went, he would be greeted with smiles and happiness. Whenever he walked through the door, everyone knew him and loved him. Everyone was happy to see my grandfather, and his smile and laugh were absolutely infectious. When he left a place, it was better for him having been there — and we now are better for him having been here among us.

No history book is going to record how tough as nails my grandfather was. He was strong as an ox, and I don’t think many people realized how ridiculously strong he was. Okay, well, as a kid, every adult is strong, but my grandfather was truly the strongest. For his work, he would lift up giant sheets of metal, giant beams, lift buckets of cement, and make it look like it was easy — spoiler alert: it never was. Strength is one thing, but I said he was tough as nails — and he was. I got to work with my grandfather every Summer when I was a teen putting in swimming pools — one day it was about to rain, and he had planned to get the sides of this pool done before the rain kicked in. The sides had to be perfect and precisely troweled; otherwise, the pool wouldn’t live up to his standards — I’m going to talk about his standards in a bit. The rain would have messed up the troweling work, so he started in and got a ton done. After lunch, he went to hop back into the pool to continue the troweling, his foot landed slightly off, and he broke his ankle. It was the worst sound ever. Now, most people at this point would get to the hospital as soon as possible — but not my grandfather — he lifted up his now broken ankle up off the ground and stood on one foot. He spent the next hour or so (it felt like days), standing on one foot and getting the work done, and done with perfection. Then we went to the hospital. He was absolutely the toughest.

Any history book that was to write about my grandfather would have to write about how tough he was, but it would be really difficult to reconcile that with how kind he was. I don’t think most people can picture a person who was as tough as my grandfather was and also understand that he was also the most gentle and kind person. He kissed all my boo-boos. He gave the biggest and best hugs. He picked me up and gave my piggybacks. We cuddled up together in his chair and read the newspaper together. He held my hand when I got stitches. He was our greatest cheerleader, and he consoled me in my lowest points. It would be impossible to write about my grandfather without talking about how incredibly loving and kind he was.

Not only was he loved, and tough, and caring, he was also so proud of his family. There was nothing more important to him than his wife, his kids, his grandchildren, and his great-grandson. He was the at every game, every performance, every birthday, every holiday — with his tape recorder on his shoulder, recording the memories, and cheerfully asking you to smile and wave. He loved us all, so much that it makes losing him hurt so much more, that void is impossible to fill. No history book is ever going to be able to record the depths of his love because words aren’t strong enough, they don’t give a full enough picture, they can’t do him justice.

My grandfather was loved, and tough, and caring, and proud, but he also held everyone around him to the highest standards — he never had to raise his voice to influence people, no one ever wanted to disappoint my grandfather. He held himself to the highest standards and expected no less from the people around him. When he built a house, it was the best house. I knew he built houses, but I only have a few memories of him building houses, most of my memories are from when he was building swimming pools. So when I was a teenager, and I realized that one of my friends in High School lived in a house that my grandfather built, I was so excited to see what it actually looked like. Loft ceiling in the living room, a hallway that overlooked, a kitchen with custom crafted cabinets, the house was incredible — I had such pride. That’s just it though, there are entire families in Massachusetts whose memories all exist within a home that my grandfather built. There are families whose memories of Summertime fun are because my grandfather built their swimming pools — and his pools lasted because they were created to his highest and exacting standards. Earlier, I said that he had no enemies, and that’s true — but he didn’t like the people from one of the competing pool businesses in the area because their work was sub-par. He had high standards and made you want to live up to those expectations, he made everyone around him a better person because of it.

My Papa was loved, and tough, and caring, and proud, and had the highest standards. No book could possibly share all of that and also share how fearless he was. One of my greatest joys as a young kid was looking up into the sky and seeing my Superman flying through the clouds. Yes, that blue blur roaring over the house, shaking the dishes in every kitchen in the neighborhood? That was my Papa. He would fly his plane straight towards the sun until it lost its’ momentum, then he would slowly float back down towards the earth backward going tail first for longer than anyone should be comfortable with. Then he pulled back, flipped his plane back the right direction, and pulled up before hitting the ground. It was absolutely thrilling to watch because I knew that I would never, in a million years, have the guts that it took to do that. I mean, at one point when he was flying he had to have done that for the very first time, and just thinking about that is incredible — he was fearless. He was fearless in everything — he started his own company and grew it, he provided for his family with no safety net. He lived his whole life with no safety net. Absolutely fearless — even in the end, he chose to go home and live out his final days with his loved ones, on his own terms, in his perfect living room with a fireplace, bay window, and hardwood floors, that he built with his own two hands.

There is likely no history book that is going to record my grandfathers’ life, not that they would ever be able to capture all that my grandfather was anyways — and because of that, we, the people who loved and were loved by this incredible man, have to be the history book. We must carry on all that he was in our lives — live fearlessly, continue to live up to his standards, be proud of our family and stay united, be tough as nails, reflect love in everything we do, and always eat an extra scoop of ice cream, black raspberry preferred, in memory of the man who we will all so deeply and profoundly miss, who loved us, each and every single one of us, despite our flaws and mistakes. We must live out our lives as a reflection of Paul C. Voegtlin, one of the greatest men to ever grace this earth.

Director of Information Governance, IPRO; Host, The Strategy of Information (InfoGov.net). College affordability advocate. RI 50 on Fire recipient.