Today I attended the memorial service for beloved community member Paul Petrul. Although most of his peers passed years ago, the church was packed with family and friends. The service was lovely with heartfelt poetry, photos, and spoken words. Just shy of 103 years, Paul embodied allostasis with his presence, his anticipation of the future, and adaptability in how he lived.
Born in 1919, Paul flew planes in World War II and survived unimaginables. He came as equipped as anyone into his second pandemic. Pastor Charlane reminded us, Colonel Paul lived in the present, always facing forward. When asked in his 90s what his favorite decade of life was, he replied, “The one yet to come!” There are other Paul-isms like “If someone hands you a hat, put it on!” and the one he said in planning his service today, “If it isn’t enjoyable, then forget it!”
I am one of many who sat at a poker table or served on a committee with Paul. One of my worst moments with him was the day I organized a church camp softball game. At 93 years, he stood up on the pitcher’s mound before the game, tossed a hittable pitch that came back at him as a grounder. As he bent to field it, he tumbled from the pitcher's mound, glasses and glove went flying. The instant he lay there, my life flashed before me as I saw I had likely just contributed to the death or destruction of the most beloved member of the greater Meadow Vista area, and I would of course need to relocate immediately. He was alright, but we did sit on the bench and negotiate a cut-off age for softball - perhaps 90?
Anyone who’s ever met Paul has an unforgettable moment with him. He’s famous for his loud voice, large and loving presence, and an annual garage sale fundraiser where he operated the cash register, but negotiated to get you a better deal. He’d lean over the table all 6 foot-something of him with his thick-as-ever-Brooklyn accent and as you held out a dollar say, “How ‘bout a quarta for that?”
In a word, Paul was described as a compass. Always pointing north, loyal to the God of his understanding, to his family, and you, if you came across him. In his presence, you didn’t even need a compass because you felt like you had already arrived. There was nowhere else to be other than in his generous spirit. Ever-changing, ever-learning, ever-growing, whether it was learning new technology or surviving his second pandemic, Paul embodied allostasis in how he lived every day – each one of 37,526 of them.
*Audio of the service is available at Faith Lutheran Church, Meadow Vista, CA.
(Embodying Allostasis for 102 Years)