Paul Columbo was significant to many of us, and I was deeply saddened to hear of his passing this last week. My high school existence wouldn’t have had the same topography without his friendship. He had a light in his soul and one of those personalities that always gravitated people in his direction.
For those of you who didn't know me when I was younger, I first have to explain that I was painfully back then. This will be a shocker to some of you, I know, but it is true none the less. I first met Paul at R&A Market in Helper when I worked at my parents’ pie shop down the street. He asked me out a week before my sophomore year began, I think mostly because his parents, Richard and Kathy liked me and prompted him to do so. I don't think I said more than two or three words that entire first date, but Paul didn't make it awkward. He filled the silence, talking about his ’57 Chevy, car shows, and football training. For weeks afterwards, I ducked around corners avoiding any contact. It wasn’t very logical, but this was how my adolescent mind dealt with most things, including crushes. I kept hidden until he had a girlfriend, and then (phew!) I could talk to him like a normal human being once again.
A few months later, Paul and his girlfriend broke up right before Preference. I still had a little crush and I decided this was my big chance! I would ask him to the dance, and I wouldn’t be a blundering idiot this time around. It was certainly a nice theory, but of course, it didn’t go quite the way I had planned in my head. I had to start out by making the experience as excruciatingly uncomfortable as I possibly could. You see, I wasn’t aware of ‘dance asking etiquette.’ Apparently, you’re supposed to send the question in a cutsie sort of way and wait for a reply a few days later, but not me. No siree. This would have been too easy, and certainly couldn’t roll that way. I decided to run up in front of all of his friends in Grand Canyon hallway and shouted at him like a person suffering from Tourettes. “Will you go to Preference with me?!” After a moment of shock, he smiled and answered “Yes.” We stood there in silence for a minute or so while Stephanie Jarvi laughed her butt off, and then I was like, “I think I’m gonna go now.”
Despite my lovely start, we actually had a really fun night, but never tried our hand at dating again. We did attempt to kiss a few years later, but it didn’t work. We both cracked up laughing so hard in the middle that my stomach stitched for days. We’d fallen into a brother and sister role, and mutually agreed that it was too bizarre to consider being anything else.
We lost touch over the years, but I am so grateful for the modern technology that has brought so many amazing people back into my life. It was fun catching up with him over the past couple of years. My heart is breaking for his wife, Christy and their four children. The pictures he’s shared show how much he loved them all. Even though I haven’t spoken to Rich and Kathy for a very long time, I still care for both of them. Words of comfort are eluding me, but I wanted to share this memory and say he was a really great guy who’ll be missed by so many. To all of those who loved him, you will remain in my thought and prayers.