Paul Wilson: Big guy with an even bigger heart whose memory will outlast headlines’ violence
Last week a brutal crime took from our city one of its kindest, gentlest souls. Paul Wilson, 60, was a stand-up human: generous, respectful, friendly and imbued with a deep sense of humor.
I knew Paul on and off for two decades but didn’t know of his death until the day after the Jan. 2 assault on him in Danehy Park, which has yet to be solved. I was in New York on a business trip when my wife texted and told me to check the news back home. The thing that struck me in all the reports was the prominent underscoring of Paul’s appearance – 6-foot-6, and wearing shorts and a red winter jacket in the dreary cold of the New England winter.
Anyone who ever met Paul knew that wearing shorts in the dead of winter was his thing. I never asked Paul why he did it, because as a guy who wore shorts well into November and slapped them on after the first thaw, I got it. And it was shorts and not our mutual employment at Lotus/IBM that brought us together. I was playing Ultimate Frisbee at Danehy Park, where Paul was on his usual evening walk, and he paused to take in our game. He approached to ask about the rules and I said, “Hey, you’re the only guy in the office who wears shorts more than me.” We learned that we lived close by and, when IBM shipped us both 30 miles west to Littleton, sometimes commuted together. I’m a talker, and so was Paul – we talked some politics, and at the time of our commutes we were both going through the loss of our parents. He also loved good food and off-the-beaten path establishments that stood the test of time. The Out of the Blue restaurant in Davis Square was a favorite of his, and we often had a post-commute snack at the under-the-radar Italian eatery Gran Gusto, across from his apartment, or a beer at Paddy’s Lunch just up the street.
In reaching out to other people for this piece, including Carla Bekeritis and Cindy Amor, who went to Danvers High with Paul, the unanimous sentiment was that he was a deeply loved and valued member of the community. Paul attended the University of Massachusetts at Lowell and studied music, but like many from that era with creative leanings and sharp minds, he found his way into software and worked for IBM for nearly 30 years.
I last saw Paul three days before the new year on Massachusetts Avenue outside Changsho restaurant – it was 20-something degrees out, but he was wearing shorts and telling me proudly that he was now a card-carrying member of the Blue Bikes share; IBM had landed him back in Cambridge for work, and that was his new means of commuting. We made a pledge to get together soon. Soon would obviously not be soon enough.
Paul was a big guy, with an even bigger heart. Justice and closure on the mystery of his death can’t come soon enough. Still, though the nature of the crime may be what seizes headlines, in time that will fade and his memory will carry on in the hearts of those he touched.
A celebration of Paul’s life will be held at 11 a.m. Jan. 26 at the Northshore Unitarian Universalist Church, 323 Locust St., Danvers. Expressions of sympathy may be made in Paul’s memory to Doctors Without Borders.
A community meeting about the homicide investigation and safety concerns is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the Peabody School, 70 Rindge Ave., North Cambridge. Representatives of the City Manager’s Office, Cambridge Police Department, and the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office will be on hand for questions.