The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

May 16, 2013

A Don McCormack column: A hero to the end

Paul Demshar left this life the exact we he lived it — giving up himself to help someone else

Sports Editor

— When colleague Shelley Terry reached me yesterday afternoon to let me know of the tragic passing of dear friend, Paul Demshar, I literally collapsed.

That’s what happens when you’re punched in the heart, I guess.

Through my sobs, I was able to make out some of the details as Shelley relayed them to me. And when I heard Paul gave his life — literally — saving another, I actually managed a smile through the tears.

When it hit me that Shelley was trying to tell me he died saving his 10-year-old grandson, Garrett, I shivered from the goose bumps.

For that was the man I had come to know through the past half-decade, or so... the man I had come to love.

When I wrote my Christmas Eve, 2009 story on Paul’s life — “The greatest story never told, a true inspiration” — I received comments and notes from across the world. Apparently, a slew of websites picked up on Paul’s inspiring words and posted links to the story and people across the world were reached and touched by them.

Paul Demshar, a man who came from meager beginnings, never forgot how so many reached out during his time of struggle to help him and his family during his formative years.

Then, he spent the rest of his 62 years giving back, paying it forward, if you will.

On my Mount Rushmore of people who made a difference in this world, in my world, Paul Demshar is front and center, alongside the likes of Joe Pete, Karl Pearson, Mike Scully and, of course, my mom.

And, obviously, countless others, some of whose stories about Paul’s kindness I brought forward four years ago. I posted about Paul’s tragic death and a link to my story on him from 2009 last night and, to the surprise of no one, my page blew up.

“Don, this piece has to be one of my all time favorites that you did,” Shelly Ashba Eddy said. “The funny thing is, a month before you published this, Ron and I were out to dinner and sitting a few seats away from us were Paul and Jenny.

“So, of course, we chatted... he teased me about driving his Cadillac when I was 16 had only a permit, lol, then we went to eat our dinner.

“Afterward, we went to pay for our bill at Little Italy, but we didn’t have one! We were told Paul had picked up the tab!  What a great gift!  He was one of the best, for sure!”

Paul was an inspiration to so many.

“I am so sorry to hear this,” Leslie Heidecker Herbert said. “Paul and Jennifer were great friends of my mom from high school and Paul is the reason I’m an accountant.

“God bless Jennifer, Matt and Rebecca and family.”

Years ago, Paul saved my financial neck when he went to bat for me against Big Brother regarding some tax issues.

Despite my many attempts, he would not allow me to pay him for his services, nor would he permit me to compensate him for doing my taxes every year since.

“You don’t owe me anything, Don,” he would say over and over. “Don’t worry about it.”

When I protested and said he deserved to be paid for his work and asked him how I could do so, he didn’t hesitate.

“Keep doing what you’ve been doing — do for others, keep spreading the word,” he said. “God has put you in the position you’re in not because you’re rich or famous, but because you have a good heart.

“Live before you die, my friend.”

Coming from a man with a heart of gold, that’s high praise, indeed.

I remember asking him how he did it... how he found the inner strength to go on in the face of so much adversity throughout his life.

About how even as an adult, he coped with the loss of grandson Clayton, who was the twin brother of the young man Paul saved Wednesday. Clayton Demshar died before he was born, while Garrett made it. It turned out, the emergency delivery of the twin boys saved Garrett’s life as his umbilical cord was wrapped about his neck.

“I stop every morning at Clayton’s grave,” he said. “He gives me the strength to go on. I know he is with God.”

I last saw Paul about a month ago, right before April 15, when I stopped by to pick up some paper work.

He was holding court in the lobby of his office, smiling, talking with several people, his large, friendly dog making his rounds around the carpeted office, his figurative smile — his tail — wagging.

“So sorry, Don, I have to run, but we’ll catch up soon, OK?” he said.

We then parted ways the way we always did — with one of Paul’s trademark giant bear hugs.

That was Paul, too. He was an unabashed hugger.

That’s the way he was with life, though — he embraced it.

And just before I left his office, I caught a glimpse of Paul. He was bounding up the stairs, at 62, with the same youthful exuberance he showed as a high school quarterback, first at Geneva, then at Jefferson.

So full of life... so much energy... such a spirit.

And as I drove away, I thought to myself, “I love that guy. We will have to definitely catch up soon.”

Now, we won’t have that chance. And it breaks my heart.

But I know I will hear from him again soon.

Those we’ve lost speak to us from beyond... it’s called conscience.

Rest in peace, Mr. Demshar.

McCormack is the sports editor of the Star Beacon. Reach him at