Published in Senior Digest on January 2015
You see him everywhere. Like the “energizer bunny” sporting gray whiskers and a plump belly, semi-retired 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, providing them financial assistance out of his pocket, to keep them from being evicted, providing transportation, even to pay for oil to keep their homes warm in winter
Paul has long-ties to many of the City’s nonprofit groups, from the Pawtucket Arts Collaborative, the Pawtucket Armory Association including the Sandra Feinstein Gamm Theater, the Foundry Artists, the Pawtucket Fireworks Committee, Pawtucket Preservation Society, and the Pawtucket Arts Festival, just to name a few groups. Over his late years 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. He personally helps businesses to navigate the City and State’s regulatory process.
Paul co-founded and manages 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 dozens if organizations, including, Cross Roads, Pawtucket Boys and Girls Club, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Pawtucket Salvation Army, American Cancer Society, Rhode Island Food Bank, and St. Judes Hospital.
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 in the trenches. For over 70 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 and developing properties of Pawtucket Businessman Richard Sugarman, and taking on special projects as assigned. On one such project, Paul developed a long-time vacant mill into life work space.
This local businessman even ran one of the largest catering companies in Rhode Island, catering over 200 weddings and 10,000 functions over the years. His corporate and nonprofit clients include widely recognized organizations in the Ocean State, including Hasbro, Hospital Trust, La Salle Academy, BayViewAcademy, and Swank.
Exemplifying the Rotary International’s motto “Service Above Self,” Paul has been a member of the Pawtucket Rotary Club since 2011, and was recognized and awarded the prestigious Paul Harris Award, the highest civic recognition that the national civic group bestows upon an individual.
Throughout his lifetime Paul has been a role model to many, inspiring, teaching and giving them a road map to overcome obstacles in their 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 media – 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. That is Paul Audette.
While he seeks no public recognition for his good deeds have not gone unnoticed. For his unassuming efforts, Paul has been inducted into the Pawtucket Hall of Fame and the French Canadian Hall of Fame. For his community work, Mayor James Diossa gave him Central Fall’s key to the city.
Joyce Fisher, 68, a Johnston resident who has known Paul for over 53 years, says, “He is always helping somebody, just in his nature. She remembers numerous instances where he stopped to help stranded travelers on the highway, one delaying his vacation to the Cape. Another incident, he stopped on a dark, lonely highway to help a woman. A drunk driver crashed into his vehicle, pushing his car into him. He flew 20 feet into the air landing against the stranded vehicle. He ended up in the hospital along with the woman he tried to help.
“It never mattered to me about person’s status or position in society,” says Paul, stressing that throughout his eighty plus decades he just tries to help anyone with whatever problems they have to deal with.
Today, “I am free to bounce around, just consulting and mentoring people,” he says, noting that “until the day I die will jump right in to help a person in need.”
Reflecting on his life Paul considers himself fortunate to have had the opportunities to make the world just a little better place for others. “I touched many lives in many ways and my life’s satisfaction comes not from the positions I have held or money made, but knowing that I was there for people in need,” he says.
The most important person in your life may well be that person who seeks no recognition, who is there to help humanity – one person at a time – giving of themselves without seeking the accolades from others. For me, that person, is Paul Audette.
Herb Weiss is a freelance Pawtucket-based writer who covers, aging, health care and medical issues. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.