POR: Dean Paul March 15, 2009
“Everybody that gets old — somebody should do something for them.”
Follow Dean Paul around for a week. Just try to keep up.
Ballroom dancing classes at Mesa State College three days a week. Tap-dancing class on Tuesday evenings.
Then there are his classes in the history of music and dance, also at Mesa State.
Beginning this month, if there’s a high school track meet at Stocker Stadium, you will see him standing at the finish line, moving hurdles or timing a race.
Did we mention that Paul turned 90 in December?
If he wasn’t auditing classes at Mesa State or keeping active physically, he wouldn’t know what to do with himself.
“Everything is attitude,” Paul said. “I don’t know what to do when school’s out.”
He’s always been physically active. As a high school student in Toledo, Ohio, he was a middle-distance runner on the track team.
His success in the 440- and 880-yard runs earned him a chance to run track at his hometown University of Toledo, but after one year, World War II called and Paul headed to Europe to serve his country in the Air Force. He served in four campaigns and received an honor by Colorado Congressman Scott McInnis for taking part in the Normandy invasion.
When he returned from the war, he and his wife Glynnis Sue were caring for one child and had another on the way.
His father-in-law, a man Paul greatly admired, was a hairdresser and suggested that might be a way for Paul to support his family. Thus began a 26-year career.
After visiting Colorado Springs in 1964 while on vacation, Paul decided to move there.
“I just kind of liked the town,” he said.
He was a hairdresser at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs for six years.
Having raised his family, the lure of fishing prompted him to move to Durango. His son-in-law, a student at Fort Lewis College, urged him to finish his education. He graduated with a degree in art and history at the age of 54.
That’s when he realized that he never wanted to stop experiencing life.
He took part in stage productions of “The Pajama Game” and “Damn Yankees” in Durango.
He was even an extra in a Rock Hudson-Mia Farrow movie filmed in part in the Four Corners area, “Avalanche.”
Still, Durango wasn’t a good fit for him, so he moved to Grand Junction 20 years ago.
He and Glynnis Sue, whom he met when he was 13 (it was love at first sight) were married for 58 years before her passing eight years ago.
Since then, he’s always had people looking in on him, making sure he’s all right, chief among them being Terry Massis.
“She’s been a good friend of mine ever since (Glynnis Sue’s death),” Paul said.
With the knowledge that he could take classes for free at Mesa State, Paul began auditing classes, primarily in the humanities department, when he first arrived in Grand Junction.
It was fun, he was learning, and he was able to offer some insight that his younger counterparts
They, in turn, enjoy his presence, despite, in some cases, a 70-year age difference.
“I get along so good with them,” Paul said. “They grab me and hug me.”
Take, for instance, Julie Bruch, an associate professor of English at the college.
“I met him two years ago in tap class,” she said.
The two immediately struck a friendship.
At 90 years old, “He keeps up,” Bruch said.
Last semester, Paul came up with the idea that he and Bruch should do a routine for the class final.
“He came over to my house and we practiced,” Bruch said. “We did a 3-minute routine.”
It was the hit of the class.
Paul has even taken one of her linguistics classes.
“He adds a lot to the class,” Bruch said. “He reads a lot (and) reads very controversial books.”
As for his classmates, “He fits in well,” Bruch said.
One thing he mentioned to Bruch has always stuck with her.
“He said, ‘I hope my being here will inspire them to stay in school or work hard,’ ” Bruch said.
Every Tuesday night, Paul shows up at Dance Works to take tap lessons from Kathryn Schulte.
“I think enthusiastic is a real good word to describe Dean,” Schulte said. “He’s always working on learning.”
Every December, Paul performs a tap routine while dressed as Santa Claus for kids.
His work with track athletes began while he was working at the Occupational Training Center for kids with special needs.
“I liked the kids (and) the coaches,” he said.
Nearly every Saturday in the spring, he’s at Stocker Stadium being part of the crew that helps put on high school track meets.
A hip operation 10 years ago and a recent bout with sciatica have forced him to curtail his running. (He did area 5Ks, 10Ks and half-marathons well into his 70s.)
That doesn’t mean he doesn’t stay active. In addition to his dance classes, he still takes 3-mile bike rides and frequent walks. He does 10 exercises plus push-ups each day.
To prove a point, at his surprise 90th birthday party in December (arranged by his grandkids), he got down on the floor and did 45 push-ups for the cheering crowd.
“He just has a real zest for life,” Schulte said. “He’s such an inspiration.”