July 22, 1927-Sept. 14, 2013
As many of you know, Paul was quite the writer and he wrote this for his birthday: “It is a recorded fact that on the night of July 22, 1927, my father went outdoors, in Northfield, Minn., to see if the Northern Lights were as bright as they seemed from indoors. He could read the paper in the shimmering lights of night. About an hour after that test. Dr. John L. Haskins (my God Father) tied a knot in the umbilical cord of the newly arrived Paul Lester Fossum. That was 86 years ago!”
Paul passed away in the wee hours of Sept. 14, 2013, of cancer. His wife, Moira, was with him.
When World War II broke out, Paul, at age 17, was right there to enlist in the Navy. He called it his “20 minutes of World War II,” because his first flight as a belly gunner ended when his plane was shot down. That was when he earned his first Purple Heart. Paul spent the rest of the war at the U.S. Naval Hospital on Guam.
By the time he was healed, the war was over and he was able to use his GI Bill to attend the same school where his father and grandfather had been professors, Carleton College in Northfield, Minn. He settled on a Geology degree and graduated Phi Beta Kappa, in spite of his dyslexia!
When he got out of college, he had lined up a great job with Weyerhaeuser Company — the world’s largest wood products company.
But Uncle Sam had other ideas and he learned that you don’t leave the Navy that easily! He was recalled for the Korean “Conflict,” but this time he went in as an officer. He then became involved in UDT (Underwater Demolition Team, precursor to Navy Seals) and was commander of a team that worked directly for Admiral Felix B. Stump. He and his team did many heroic jobs, and in the course of these, he received his second Purple Heart, a Bronze Star and the Navy Cross. He was private, but very proud of his military contributions.
When Paul left the Navy, he was able to pick up that great Weyerhaeuser job that had been waiting for him. He really loved the lumber business and he loved people! Throughout his Weyerhaeuser 32-year career, he managed every Weyerhaeuser plant site on the West Coast, including the world’s largest sawmill at Everett, Wash. It was when he was managing Cottage Grove, Springfield and Coos Bay that he met his sweetheart, Moira, and they were married in 1987.
Over the years, Paul served on school boards, hospital boards including the Oregon State Hospital Advisory Hospital Board, and was chairman of several different chambers of commerce. He loved flying his airplane and spending time on his beloved boat.
Paul retired from Weyerhaeuser after 32 years, but he just really didn’t “get” retirement, and so Paul and Moira moved to Alameda, Calif., where they bought a travel franchise, which they owned for 20 years.
When it was time to move on, in 2004 they chose Brookings. And what a good choice it was! Still not ready to “retire,” Paul accepted a role on the Curry Transit Board of Directors and served as their chairman until he passed. He so valued the folks he worked with at Curry Public Transit for their kindness and professionalism. He loved being a “maverick” writer and “stirring the pot” and sharing his love of life.
His loving family consists of his wife Moira; sons and families Scott, Zip and Arnie Fossum in Marianna Fla., Sean, Kris, Sean Dylan and Ethan Bangs in Portland, and Ben, Corinne and Walter Bangs in Tulsa, Okla. His other grandchildren are Cody, BoMe, Kelly, Noel, Mariah, and Isaiah. And the great-grandchild from Noel — “Sir Zander!”
The end of his life was enriched by his wonderful caring and professional caregivers, Father Bernie who prayed and laughed with Paul and even loaned him his scooter so he could do the “Scooter Rodeo,” the “Angels” from Curry Medical Center, the loving Home Health and Hospice folks and the terrific friends who called, came to visit, walked the precious dog, built a wheelchair ramp which gave him freedom, did handyman things around the house, brought food and gifts and flowers and just generally loved Paul and his grateful wife, Moira.
Thank you to everyone who contributed to this great man’s life!
Submitted by Moira.