Paul Hawthorne's Web Site

Paul Hawthorne



Paul was a customer of the first bookstore I worked in. This was 1979, and the store was in Seal Beach, CA. We flirted and exchanged views about life, people, & books.

Periodically, he would show up at the shop with his banjo and play outside for a while, but more often he went down to the pier and played.

He said at some point later, but I never knew for sure which time(s) he meant, that some of those times he was playing with Tom Paxton. (Ignoramus that I was, had no idea who TP was....)

In 1980, my fiancé and I had scheduled our wedding and the gentleman who was to be our best man had to bow out at the last minute. Paul volunteered, and was our best man in a very simple ceremony which took place in a judge's chambers at the L.A. Superior Courthouse.

Paul and I never saw quite eye-to-eye, but still one of us would find the other every now and again as the years went by.

Which is what I tried to do today. After I sent the "How are you?" email that is no doubt somewhere floating about the ether, I Googled Paul, expecting a new book, a concert list, a polemic against (or for!) something, etc. In short, I did not expect to find my friend had gone.

He'll be missed.

Judith Klein-Dial, October 5, 2008, Antrim, NH


I met Paul at RPI.  We were both members of the same fraternity, Phi Sigma Kappa.  At the time, Paul was living at home in Delmar, NY, less than 15 miles from RPI.  Even then you could tell that Paul had a slightly different slant on life.  We talked about cars quite a bit, among other subjects.  He had a Studebaker Starlite, about 1953, the model with the sloped hood, not the vertical Hawk grill.  It had great style, but being a Studebaker was not one of the popular cars.  He had painted it a striking blue.  When asked about the color, he would give his little smile and say, "just something I mixed up."  One day he confided in me that it was just a standard Chevrolet color, but it looked great on the Studebaker.  He decided to purchase new inside door sills for the car.  He really enjoyed the fact that on each of the sills was inscribed, "Craftsmanship with a flare."  I can't help but think that it was also an excellent description of Paul.

Our car discussions tended toward European sports and performance cars.  I don't remember how he found it, but the Marcos fit Paul to a T.  Out of the mainstream (actually obscure in the USA), great style, unusual construction (plywood frame) and  just plain interesting.  Because of the low roof line, the seat backs had a radical recline.  Either to save cost, weight, or both, the large rear window was made of Perspex plastic.  Back then, service station attendants would not only pump gas, but also check your oil and clean your windows without being asked.  Paul had to fend off the squeegee wielding attendants to keep them from scratching the window.

For a short period Paul was a mechanic for a friend in Delmar who raced a Mini.  There was a time when they were without a trailer.  Paul's solution was a small open top U-Haul box trailer.  The car fit with only inches to spare all around.  When on the trailer, you had to crawl through the window to get in or out of the car.  It was quite a spectacle and drew a crowd at the races.  I don't know if you would call that thinking outside the box or inside the box (trailer).

While in college, Paul became seriously interested in playing the Guitar.  Typical of Paul he decided to build his own Guitar using the facilities of the RPI wood working shop.  The neck, a slotted peghead design, he carved from the leg of a 50 year old desk which he chose because he wanted a piece of wood that was sufficiently seasoned.  (It was almost petrified.)  I don't remember when he made the transition to the banjo.  It might have been after he graduated and went to work for Grumman on Long Island.

One time he brought me down into his parent's basement to show me the stacks of old school house clocks that he had salvaged.  They had square oak cases covered with many coats of paint.  They were slave units made to run off a master clock.  He gave me one from which I chipped off all the paint to its original oak finish and it is still hanging on my wall.  I never replaced the mechanism so that would run stand-alone and I don't think that I ever will.  I look at it and think of Paul.

While he worked on Long Island we would see each other occasionally. Sometimes he would just show up unannounced.  He was at my wedding in August '67.  That evening he managed to drive off with the maid of honor.  They were nowhere to be found until the following day when they made a surprise appearance at the airport where my wife and I were waiting to fly off on our honeymoon.  With Paul I learned to expect the unexpected.

After his move to the West coast, I might have seen him once or twice plus some phone calls and emails.  In February of 2001 we exchanged some emails about a fraternity brother who died in Australia.  He also mentioned his mother's death the previous November which he felt might have been self inflicted when she stopped eating shortly before she was to move to California.  In one of these emails he said, "Death IS part of life, even if it is socially unacceptable to discuss.  And who really knows what is next?  I did have a NDE back in 74, got to see a tunnel (brick lined) and a light at the end.  I remember arguing that I was not ready to leave.  What was/ is beyond, I do not know."

Paul will be sorely missed.

, October 4, 2008, Bridgewater, NJ


The news of Paul's death, when it came, sent me reeling. It was devastating to lose my friend of eight years, he was not just a friend but my guru, philosopher, advisor, mentor and benefactor and kindred spirit. We shared many similar beliefs and likes and dislikes. Paul's passing has created a huge void and it's hard to believe he's gone.

We were in contact on a daily basis over the eight years, sometimes as many as a dozen emails per day if the topic of conversation was interesting. Paul was certainly a very interesting guy to say the least... His knowledge of life, people, music, banjos etc etc was awesome and his patience in explaining things was unwavering.... I learned a lot from him and still have a lot to learn from him.

I have a cache of emails received from him totaling in excess of 5.5k. I lost more than that number after a hard drive failure about 5 yrs ago. I have more stashed on a CD. I'm glad I decided early on to keep Paul's emails for future reference because a lot of times the things that he shared with me were a little over my head then. I can reference any of those emails now and still learn from him. Sometimes, I will read what we were talking about on any given date say a year ago. I realise by doing that it makes it hard to 'let go' but I like to keep memories alive.

On one occasion around 3 weeks after his passing I was reading a message from 2004 where Paul had asked me if I knew a certain person who had bought a big name banjo from a big name player. I didn't know the guy in question then but I did as I re-read that old email... I hit the 'Reply' button to tell him, then it hit me seconds later that he had been dead for 3 weeks...I got a lump in my throat like a tennis ball.

During our friendship Paul generously sent me many things through the mail, usually banjo accessories but always included would be something unexpected like exotic tomato seeds, eg, Black Prince, Golden Girl, Purple Cherokee etc. I would grow them and keep him informed on their progress. I had lots of failures, Lancs England is a far cry from the sunny hot climate of CA USA. I did grow some Black Prince and they ARE black and kind of greenish inside. That success tickled him no end.

I suggested to Paul that in reciprocation for all the strings, heads, RR spikes, picks etc he had sent me I would create a bank account for him in The Royal Bank Of Geoghegan, thereafter referred to as RBOG. I would send him spoof legal looking bank statements periodically and boost the balance a few cents in 'earned interest' The purpose of the account (as well as to amuse) was meant to finance any purchases Paul wished to make off of eBay UK. The only transaction I brokered was a Win98se (CoA) disk. When I realised just how sick he was I asked him (stupidly) without thinking if I should send him the $80.00 in his 'account' - His reply - "<G> Not just yet!"

I have since been in touch with Robyn, Paul's long time friend and housemate and we agreed the cash will be donated to Christie's Cancer Research facility at Manchester, UK. I chose to donate there because my wife was treated there and close to death, she had a Stem Cell Transplant and has been in remission since 2004. Paul helped me through those bad times, his support and encouragement was a great comfort. He also took great hope and heart from my wife's success when he was himself struck down with cancer. I tried to do for him what he had done for me, I returned all the support and encouragement.

I could continue writing about Paul ad ifinitum, I have only scratched the surface here. I will end this by saying I'm proud that he called me his friend and that he could open his heart to me. I'm proud that early on he asked me to work on the design of the cover on his book, Gestalt Banjo, that WAS an experience! I feel honored to have been in his 'inner circle' and I will miss him for a very long time to come.

Finally, I'm glad my friend is no longer suffering and does not have to endure any further indignities.

R.I.P mon ami.... The Universe is yours.

Tony Geoghegan, April 26, 2007, Lancs, England


I was sad to read of Paul's passing. I was trying to get in contact with him about a banjo that I bought from him when I worked with him at Northrop. I also know Rick Hughes. Paul had contacted me about five or six years ago when he discovered that I lived in Winfield, Kansas. He wanted to know if I still had the banjo that he sold me. This was a banjo that he built while working at Northrop in the early 1980's. He wanted to buy it back if I still had it. I never got in touch with him. I'm sorry that I didn't. I still have the banjo and will always treasure it as a memory of Paul. He was a great guy. I think what I will remember the most about him was his positive attitude, always, his constant smile and his laugh. He truly embraced life. I am very sad that I did not get to see him before he passed away.

, April 15, 2007, Albuquerque, NM




Edited 05 Oct 2008 by WF