Real Role Models Fly Under the Radar Screen

Published Augusts 24, 2012, Pawtucket Times

            As we go through our life stages, we are attracted to ‘role models’ or people we look up to – “mentors” as they are commonly referred to.    Those individuals who possess the right attributes and specific traits we hope to emulate – a persona we admire and respect. 

             For children growing up or those having reached their middle years, they may look up to and view their parents as that “perfect” role model.  Others may see redeeming qualities they try to imitate turning to entertainment celebrities, pro-athletes, successful business entrepreneurs, or religious and ethical figures. I found myself stumped when I was recently asked who my role model was as I responded to a “PowerPlayer” questi+onnaire by  I never looked up to any one individual in the celebrity culture, sports personality, or even a politician.  

 Influential People in My Life

           As I pondered this question, there were a few people that came to mind.

          Of course I thought of my father, Frank Weiss, who had a great impact on my life.  He taught me the importance of using a business network in my profession.  While the Dallas businessman raised money to fund cancer research projects and other worthy causes, as Economic and Cultural Affairs Officer, I try to do the same, such as working to support the City’s Annual Pawtucket Arts Festival. 

          Then there was Fred Levy, a former Army intelligence officer during World War II, who was also a fabric salesman and writer.  When I was a young man, Mr. Levy was my neighbor and a man for whom I had great respect.  He might be a likely candidate for being my role model.  Mr. Levy gave me advice on how to become a better writer during my early professional years.  He juggled his job, writing, and also being a full-time caregiver to his adult daughter, Faye, who was bedridden with multiple sclerosis.  He was an inspiration to me, who read my published articles and encouraged me to continue to writing.  

         More recently in my present work, I thought of my former boss, Planning Director Michael Cassidy.  He was a role model to me – teaching me the value of tenaciousness. He looked at all bureaucratic and political angles to accomplish his planning goals. While it took him 10 years to get the City’s skate board park up and running, it took me seven years to see my project, the SlaterParkDogPark come to fruition.  But it happened. 

            While my father, my neighbor and former boss taught me valuable lessons in life, I realized that the most influential person in my life, was an 82 year old, semi-retired man right here in my Pawtucket community.                

Being an Advocate for the Voiceless

          Like the “energizer bunny” sporting gray whiskers and a plump belly, Pawtucket businessman, Paul Audette has always been an advocate for the “voiceless” in the City of Pawtucket and the surrounding communities. 

         Watching out for the elderly, he became a volunteer ‘ombudsman’ for the Alliance for Better Long-Term Care.  Paul even served as Chairman of the Pawtucket’s  Affirmative Action Committee to ensure that everyone had equal opportunities in municipal government.   He has worked for decades assisting those down-and-out, even providing them financial assistance out of his pocket, to help them navigate the State’s regulatory process.

         Paul has long-ties to many of the City’s nonprofit groups, from the Pawtucket Arts Collaborative, the Pawtucket Armory Association, the Foundry Artists, the Pawtucket Fireworks Committee, Pawtucket Preservation Society, and the Pawtucket Arts Festival, just to name a few groups.  He even has been active bringing his expertise as a property manager and developer to assist the Pawtucket Planning Department streamline the City’s Building permit process.

        Paul co-founded a non-profit group called Helping Hands, and has provided financial assistance to local organizations that help youths at risk, the helpless and homeless.  Since 2006, Helping Hands has given donations to 37 organizations, including, Cross Roads, Pawtucket Boys and Girls Club, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Pawtucket Salvation Army, American Cancer Society.

        Paul did not learn the ropes about business by attending any of the ivy-league schools, but instead learned the tricks of the trade by working.  For over 50 years, his hard work landed him senior-level positions for major corporations including Dunkin Donuts, in addition to serving as ‘Special Assistant’ to the Presidents of Providence Metalizing, working in the Personnel Department, and by managing its properties and taking on special projects as assigned. 

        This local businessman even ran one of the largest catering companies in Rhode Island, catering over 300 weddings and 10,000 functions over the years.  His corporate and nonprofit clients include widely recognized organizations in the OceanState, including Hasbro, Hospital Trust, La SalleAcademy, BayViewAcademy, and Swank. 

           Exemplifying the Rotary International’s motto “Service Above Self,” Paul has been a member of the Pawtucket Rotary Club since 1999, and was recognized and awarded the prestigious Paul Harris Award, the highest civic recognition that the national civic group bestows upon an individual.

           Throughout one’s lifetime you might have many role models who inspire, teach and give you a road map to overcoming obstacles in your personal and professional career.  But sometimes the most important ones are those individuals who are not so visible or obvious, like those reported in surveys reported by the nation’s medai – the celebrities, professional athletes, or beloved religious figures, but rather that person in your community, whose mere existence quietly impacts you – as well as a community.

          The most important role model in your life may well be that person flying under the radar screen, seeking to help others – one person at a time – giving of themselves without seeking public notice.   For me, that person, my mentor is  Paul Audette.

           Herb Weiss is a freelance Pawtucket-based writer who covers, aging, health care and medical issues.


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