Sunday, March 9, 2014
PORTLAND - George R. Paradis, a longtime Portland resident, was the type of uncle kids can only dream about having.
"He had a wonderful way about him. The twinkle in his eye was always there," said a nephew, Eric L. Zelz of Bangor. "He was very special to all of us."
Mr. Paradis died earlier this month at the age of 89.
He was born in Nashua, N.H. When he was 8 years old, both of his parents died -- about a year apart. He went to live with his uncle and aunt in Bangor, where he graduated from John Bapst High School in 1940.
After serving in World War II with the Army Air Corps, Mr. Paradis enrolled at Bowdoin College, graduating in 1949 with a degree in English.
Mr. Paradis left Maine after graduation to work for advertising and public relations agencies in Washington and New York City. He eventually returned to Maine to take a job as public relations director for the United Fund of Portland.
In 1960, he began teaching English in the Portland school system. His teaching career included a stint at Deering High School.
In 1968, he left Deering High to become chairman of the English Department at Southern Maine Vocational Technical Institute (now known as Southern Maine Community College) in South Portland.
While teaching, he earned his master's degree from the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College in Vermont.
He taught at SMCC until his retirement in 1983.
Mr. Paradis never married, although his nephew said his family liked to joke that he "had a few close calls."
Zelz said he enjoyed his visits to his uncle's Portland apartment. He always had plenty of ginger ale and crackers on hand. Mr. Paradis liked to take his family to dinner at local restaurants such as The Village Cafe -- which is no longer in business.
"He was a rock. You could always get a great perspective on things from him," Zelz said.
After Zelz graduated from Bowdoin, he went to his uncle for some advice. He asked if he should try to find a job or go backpacking in Europe.
"He said go to Europe. Go spread your wings. He was always one to say live now, and that is how he lived his life," Zelz said.
Zelz's daughter, Charlotte, interviewed her great-uncle for a seventh-grade school assignment three years ago.
"He had a great, quirky sense of humor," she said.
When she asked her great-uncle, "When do you lie?" he replied, "Lie down? Usually by 9 at night."
After his retirement, Mr. Paradis spent years volunteering at Maine Medical Center. Zelz said he found a pin in his uncle's apartment that was given to Mr. Paradis in recognition of his years of service. The pin said he volunteered more than 11,000 hours at the hospital.
Zelz said his uncle taught hundreds of students, many of whom went on to have their writing published.
He also had an active social life. He was friends with the actress Bette Davis. Zelz said he found a photograph of his uncle posing with Davis.
His uncle was also an avid reader. One of his favorite gifts came in the form of a bundle of index cards that his uncle gave him. Each card contained "a mini review" of a book Mr. Paradis had read.
Those wishing to remember him are being encouraged to make gifts in his memory to the Maine Charitable Mechanic Association Library in Portland or to the Bangor Public Library. There will be no formal funeral service.
Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: