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'Uncle Bill' remembered as fun-loving family man, veteran

'He was the father I never had,' nephew says

'He was the father I never had,' nephew says

January 22, 2006|By MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

Although he always called him Uncle Bill, Larry Taylor said the relationship he shared with Paul William Palmer was much closer than that.

"He was the father I never had," Larry said as he choked back tears at the Jan. 14 passing of this most influential man in his life.

Larry said his Uncle Bill passed out in a store on Christmas Eve and was taken to Washington County Hospital.

"He was in there for the next 11 days for his heart," Larry said.

There were a couple of short stays in an assisted-living facility, then home and finally back to the hospital, where he died Jan. 14 at the age of 78.

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Before this latest health crisis, Larry and his wife, Deborah, had been planning to move in with Uncle Bill to care for him at his home in the 300 block of North Mulberry Street, just a block from their own residence.

Now, they are faced with sorting through Uncle Bill's lifetime of accumulated mementos of days spent working at Fairchild; volunteering at his church; and serving his Masonic and Elks lodges, American Legion post and various fire and rescue organizations in the community.

"We've found lots and lots of plaques from the church and from veterans groups," Larry said. One faded and wrinkled commendation from his U.S. Army Air Corps days during World War II bore the signature of a grateful President Harry Truman.

As the oldest of 10 children in his own family, Larry said he remembered Uncle Bill coming around when he was a child living on North Locust Street, but then they lost touch over the years.

"Then, when we were living on East North Avenue, we saw Uncle Bill walking in the neighborhood," Deborah said. "He told Larry then he thought he was one of his nephews."

After that, they got together regularly for holidays and everyday occasions. With no children of his own, Uncle Bill liked to come around when there were kids and grandkids at Larry and Deborah's house.

"I knew his wife, Geri, a little bit when I was in my 20s," Larry said. He later found out that Geri had worked with Larry's uncle during his 40 years at Fairchild. They were married in 1963 and were together until she died in 1999.

Donna DeLauney said she also knew Paul - as she called him - when she worked at Fairchild, both with Paul and Geri. Donna remembered him as a quiet man who was a pleasure to work with.

"So easygoing, he always had a smile on his face," Donna said.

Donna's husband, Henry "Hank" DeLauney, had a long history in the Hagerstown Fire Department, but said he knew Paul only by reputation as president of Western Enterprise Fire Co., then the Washington County Fire and Rescue Association.

Ed Hillegas was "Paul's" barber for close to 30 years.

"Paul was a fine gentleman," Ed said. "We'd talk about things that happened in our military service, among other things, while I cut his hair."

Ed Poling, pastor of the Hagerstown Church of the Brethren, said Paul was active in the church long before Poling arrived, and he continued that devotion through the years.

"He was a counter and an usher when I came," Poling said.

Larry said his Uncle Bill was more than just a member of the clubs he joined over the years.

"He helped anyone who needed it," Larry said, noting that many of the people he called to inform them of his death cried when they heard the news.

As he got older and less active, neighbors cut his grass for him and others shoveled snow for him.

"Once, he let me cut his bushes," Larry said.

But still, he had time for family, friends and his beloved pets. At the end, Larry said, his Uncle Bill had one lone cat living with him in his home.

"We haven't seen that cat since Uncle Bill died," Larry said. "The food and water we put out is disappearing, but the cat hasn't shown up yet."

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