ParkTales on Paul Pauk


Frances Sedgwick's keen eye and ear for the human condition reveals the heart and soul of Parkdale in southwest Toronto, one of the country's most turbulent urban areas where the best traditions of human kindness prevail against powerful forces that would grind them down. True North Perspective proudly presents a column by writer Frances Sedgwick. Her critical observation combined with a tender sense of humour will provide you with something to think about ... and something to talk about.

Memories Chiefly Paul Pauk

Paul Pauk, partner of Frances Sedgwick for 44 years, died peacefully at 1 p.m. Monday 23 April 2013. He was 94. Paul had been severely handicapped by a stroke ten years ago. The loyal warm care Frances has given him since then pays ample tribute to both of them. Here following is a column Frances Sedgwick wrote five years ago 24 April 2008 in which she pays tribute to just a few of Paul's traits that caused her to love him so deeply. It was published with the headline

My Trip to Ottawa – Memories on the Train

By Frances Sedgwick
True North Perspective

24 April 2008 — The couple behind me, talking, talking — the woman had a strong English accent. At first it was annoying so I had a bright idea — give them your newspaper, that should shut them up! So I asked them “would you like the paper?” 

“How kind of you,” she replied. That made me feel a bit sheepish. Then I took an interest toward her. She was probably about my age and seemed the proper English Lady. As I passed her the paper I was able to take a good look.  Almost white hair and bright red lipstick. Hmmm. When the service provider came along they asked for two beers then she changed hers to a Caesar after the waiter explained this was like a Bloody Mary. The time being around 1 p.m. I thought, “Oh yeah, this is English noon-time “toddy”. To my amusement instead of continuing her conversation in a loud voice, her tone became softer. How interesting!

  Paul Pauk with Frances Sedgwick and friends.
  Paul Pauk with Frances Sedgwick and the ever friendly staff at the O'Neil Centre Long Term Care and Retirement Home earlier this year.

The provider moved along the aisle and a man ordered a coffee with sugar. “I have a sweet tooth,” he explained. Then I thought “sweet tooth” where did that ridiculous saying come from? How can you have a “sweet tooth”? Quite the opposite, the sugar makes your tooth far from sweet as we all have experienced.

As I continued to hear the couple behind me I grew to like them more and more. This is better than listening to annoying music from someone’s headphones, against which I had brought ear plugs just in case, or someone’s one-sided conversation on a cell phone.

Things quieted down, I lay back and watched the scenery — then we passed a station. All of a sudden tears came to my eyes. That’s the Cobourg Station! I sit up. How many summers my partner picked me up here and we went to our trailer. He would be there fishing and I would say, “Don’t come to Toronto to pick me up, I’ll take the train." Oh, the fun we had, fishing, entertaining friends, bonfires, dogs, kids. As the train sped along the memories kept flashing through my mind. How many kids did I introduce to my “enchanted forest” across the road? How many spiders did we watch catching mosquitoes in their webs on our deck. “Remember Gabriel, never destroy a spider web. It has its purpose.” How many special stones did Gabriel and I collect? And oh yeah, those bugs.

The conductor came and collected our tickets. I smiled up at him with tears in my eyes. He must have thought I was sad. In a way I was but then I smiled — lucky am I to have all these memories.

It’s nice that these are special memories also to Alex and Gabriel and Logan, Paul’s grandson — he’s now 23. He remembers the special rope swing over the river. We would swing over the river and then drop off. The current was strong and you had to be careful but I didn’t realize this at the time. Then there were the boat rides to the special beach — how the kids laughed as I tried to get back in the boat after our swims. But much to their surprise I solved the problem using a life jacket as a ladder. ”Fran you are so smart”, they yelled as they pulled me in. The miles click by and so do my memories.

The highlight of the summer of course was the fishing. 

How many kids got their introduction to fishing from Paul? I’ll always remember the look of excitement on their faces when they pulled in a fish.

But my favorite memory was when Alex was only a few years old and we took him out in the boat. He saw all these boats zooming by and he said, “Look Dad, no wheels”.

And the memories wouldn’t be complete without the summer nights solving the world’s problems. Discussions long into the night. After the fishing stories dried up on came the political discussions which turned into arguments each vehemently defending their point of view.

The vodka flowed, the smoke rose — oh yes so did the voices until one wondered who was really listening to whom.

Suddenly announcement — Fallowfield Station.  Almost everyone was getting off including my English lady. As she passed on her way out I noticed she was wearing a luxurious full length fur coat — interesting I said to myself, it looked so out of place — no one wears them anymore.

“Next stop Ottawa”, came the call now and I put my memories back in place and looked forward to new ones soon to happen here.

My Parkdale