Amy Roberts: Paul Hewitt really did light up a room
Whenever I have read, or listened to, a eulogy, obituary or tribute meant to honor someone who passed away, I’ve always winced a bit at comments like, “he lit up a room,” or “she made everyone feel special,” or the deceased was “loved by everyone.” I find “larger than life” descriptions equally cringeworthy.
Lots of people say things like this about a loved one, but how many people really “light up a room” or truly make everyone “feel special?” Most of us have about three people in our lives who we can sometimes tolerate. Plus, calling someone “larger than life” is like saying they gave 110% to everything. It’s statistically impossible. So to me, these types of remarks have always seemed unrealistic, unimaginative, and entirely untethered to reality.
That is until I heard the news that Park City’s Fire Chief and my friend, Paul Hewitt, had died. When I learned about is death last week, I realized I was wrong. There are people who should be described and remembered in those ways.
I first met Paul in 2011, right when he began his career in Park City as the fire chief. At the time, I was the spokesperson for the hospital, which was still in its infancy back then. He needed to understand what types of emergencies we could handle, and we needed to prove to him what we were capable of. Paul wasn’t the type to sit in a corner office and make decisions from his spot behind a desk. He met with our emergency department staff and administrative team regularly, knowing the hospital’s successes and failures were intricately woven with the district’s.
Paul also believed it was essential to understand and be part of the community he was charged with protecting. That’s why he joined the Park City Rotary Club, where we were both members for nearly a decade. Despite his impressive title and position of stature, Paul didn’t delegate or try to excuse himself out of any of the many thankless jobs he was “voluntold” for.
For many years, Paul was the puppeteer behind the annual Miner’s Day celebration held over Labor Day Weekend. Sponsors, permits, the Running of the Balls, the parade, mucking and drilling competitions, concessions, a 5K run, volunteers, vendors — he organized it all. You’d see him placing perimeter fencing at 5 a.m., running in the race then setting up the track for the ball drop down Main Street, later waving to the crowd from the fire engine to begin the parade, emptying trash containers at City Park throughout the afternoon, changing out the kegs in the beer tent, and working the tear-down and clean-up shifts as the sun began to set. I never once heard him complain. Instead, he made the rounds in his golf cart and would ask if any of the other Rotarians needed a break or some help. His energy was matched only by his service.
Paul’s community involvement wasn’t limited to Rotary. He was known to don a pair of high heels and march up Main Street as part of the “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” domestic violence awareness event organized every year by Peace House. The first year he participated, he knocked on my office door at the hospital and shyly asked me for a favor. Paul was not known for being shy, so his demeanor made me curious. He told me he noticed how I wore heels often and asked if I knew where he could find a pair in “extra-large or bigger.”
I laughed and acknowledged my collection of stilettos and reputation for wearing them. Then gave him a brief explanation of women’s shoe sizing and helped him find a pair on eBay. After the walk, he came up to me at a Rotary meeting and pointed to my feet. “I have no idea how you wear those things! I have blisters and bunions and only walked a few steps!” It’s the only time I ever heard him say anything you could remotely consider a grievance.
The stories about Paul, his kind heart, warmth, compassion, and humor, are as endless as the tears shed by those who knew him. Paul really did make people around him feel special. He really did light up a room. And his presence really was inexplicably large. He is authentically deserving of such remembrances.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Park City and Summit County make the Park Record's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.
“There are times when the universe just sets you spinning and last weekend was one of those,” writes Teri Orr.