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For Paul 1954 - 1995


April 4, 1995.
Paul died today. He had been in the hospital for a couple of weeks and was in surgery to have his port removed when he had a seizure and died.  They had him on a ventilator and kept him on the ventilator after he came out of surgery.  I knew he was gone when I saw him. I held his hand and told him I would get him off the ventilator.  The doctors  suggested we keep him on the ventilator until his parents arrived and then take him off.  But his older sister was with me and an older couple who were close friends of Pauls parents and they all thought it would be best to let him die right then..... (so his parents would not have to see how bad he looked.??? I think.) After another meeting with the doctor(s) they agreed to take him off the ventilator.  The nurses told me that he went very peacefully as we were not permitted in the room when they removed the ventilator. Then we went in and stood with him for awhile.
His obituary read:
Paul W. who took care of plants for a living, played Chopin on the piano, sang second tenor for the Philadelphia Gay Mens Chorus, founded Philadelphia's gay and lesbian marching band and tap danced until he was hospitalized several weeks ago, died Tuesday at Hanneman Hospital from complications of AIDS.  He was 41 years old.
Mr W, who lived in the Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia was well known in the cities gay and lesbian population for his musical abilities and his tireless work organizing concerts, raising funds and doing the publicity for the musical groups he led or participated in.
"Without Paul, I'm not sure  some of those organizations would have made it" said Paul J, who worked and sang with Mr W in the Gay Mens Chorus and in the Spruce Street Singers, another gay choral group.  "He did so many of the thankless jobs, particularly selling ads in the program books both groups used to finance their concerts and keep afloat." J said.
Mr W's Northern Liberties neighbors knew him more for his piano playing - for the Chopin and show tunes that sweetened summer evenings when the windows of his rowhouse and theirs were open.
Mr W grew up in Berwyn and started playing the piano in the second grade, his mother Juanita said.  They'd gotten a piano for his older brother, but Paul was the one who really took to it. He would not leave the piano alone," she said.  After graduating from Conestoga High School, he studied music for a year at Carson Newman College in Jefferson City, Tenn. 
In 1975, Mr W  began working for the Barnes Foundation in Merion, Pa.  He started out as a gallery assistant moving paintings.  Then he moved into the arboretum,  where he studied and became interested in horticulture.
He was one of the few foundation employees to give an "on the record" interview with a reporter in 1988, when the Foundation was still a very closed institution.  But, he said in the interview, " I have the utmost respect for that place.  I wouldn't be where I am today if not for the Barnes Foundation and what I learned."
He left the Foundation in 1991 to work for Intergreen, a Philadelphia interior design company that installs and cares for indoor plants.  In 1996, he opened a similar business, Tropical Interiors, from an office on the 400 block of Fairmount Ave.
In the late 1980's Mr W founded the Philadelphia Freedom Band, a gay and lesbian marching band that participated in Gay Pride parades in Philadelphia and other cities.  "They were at the inaugural.  He waved at President Clinton," said Joel, Mr W's long time companion.
He joined Philadelphia's Gay mens Chorus in 1987 and served as its president for several years.  He also was manager of the Spruce Street Singers, after leaving the Gay Mens Chorus and  joining that group.
"When he learned of his HIV status, he started to give a lot more time to these organizations," Joel said.  "He spent hours and hours working for them, fundraising, publicity, everything."
As his health declined, Mr W had to give up singing because he lacked the stamina to stand onstage and his voice weakened.  But he often played the piano for choral rehearsals and several years ago helped found Men ON Tap, a tap group of gay men who performed at various venues in the area.
"He was having trouble walking up flights of stairs and he was still trying to tap dance.  He was just amazing," recalled J, who is a member of the Tap group.
Joel said Mr W had been hoping to perform in the upcoming DANCE FOR LIFE benefit for Philadelphia Community Health Alternatives ( his ASO ) that had provided him with services.
Mr W.. is survived by his parents .....of Stone Mountain, Ga;  two grandmothers,........., of Decatur and Stone Mountain;  a sister .....of Snellville Ga;  brothers....., ...., of Fairfax Va and Tallassee Fla and Joel ....  his long time companion and a large circle of friends who visited and helped take care of Paul during his long illness.
A memorial service will be held in several weeks.


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