Anita Scott began working on South Pasadena’s entry in the annual Rose Parade to get better insight on what the community was all about.
Her expectations were met to perfection.
“Being an all-volunteer organization, I found that float building could be a good opportunity to see what kind of people were in South Pasadena and what they cared about,” explained Scott.
When she began lending her hand, Paul Abbey was one of the first people she met, recalling he was “always the most generous person of character, showing passion about everything he did,” she said, talking about the man who meant so much to so many before he died of a heart attack last month. “He was always one of those people you could ask a question and he would give you a straight answer – no fooling around, just a solid, honest, hardworking guy.”
Scott was among a large gathering reflecting on Abbey’s life last Saturday afternoon during a memorial at the War Memorial Building in South Pasadena.
He was remembered for the countless hours he devoted to the city float over the years – working day and night and known for tearing up on New Year’s Eve, admiring what he and others had created in the final hours before it would set sail on its annual 5½-mile voyage down Colorado Boulevard.
Abbey began working on the city float when his daughter attended South Pasadena High and, seemingly never left, devoting much of his time to the city’s floral masterpiece while also serving on the South Pasadena Tournament of Roses Committee, an organization that meets monthly at South Pasadena City Hall throughout the year as members meet to discuss everything from its theme early in the year to putting the final product before Tournament of Roses Judges hours before the main event on New Year’s Day.
Not only was Abbey a dedicated worker on the float, but over the years he was a caller for South Pasadena High School Boosters Club Bingo.
Outside of his business, Abbey Graphics, where he often donated printing or for a reduced fee to many nonprofit organizations, Abbey enjoyed playing the guitar and, as a former band member, often performed for friends at gatherings. Racing slot cars, especially with his son, Bob and brother-in-law Phil, was another favorite activity, sometimes traveling to state competitions.
As a family, Abbey often headed to Chester, California, for some much deserved rest and relaxation. Watching movies, the sappier the better, allowing Paul’s eyes to well up with tears was another pastime of the family.
A stool Abbey would sit on while working on the float parked inside a giant tent behind the War Memorial Building, along with his gloves, a helmet worn, a generator and ladder used were on display at the entrance of the memorial. Steps away, Abbey’s wife, Cathy, greeted guests, many hugging her, as they passed along their condolences.
John Vandercook, a local businessman who served with Abbey on the South Pasadena Tournament of Roses Committee, will always remember Paul’s “passion and commitment” in working on the float, calling him “a genuine guy and a good man.”
Vandercook also said Abbey loved South Pasadena. “Paul loved helping others and was quick to step in and help solve a need,” he added. “He has left all of us too soon.”
Sam Hernandez, chairperson of the South Pasadena Chamber of Commerce, remembers Abbey as a “great guy, always giving everything for everyone, all the time with donations, helping those in need,” he said. “The dedication that man had was incredible. How do we replace what he gave us? I don’t think we can. It’s going to be tough.”
South Pasadena City Councilmember Robert Joe remembers Abbey as being a community leader, for his dedication to the city float and caring for others.
“He was the glue that brought together the float every New Year’s morning,” said Joe, “and we’re going to be missing him, not only as the glue, but as a very special person in this community.”
Joe also passed along “a special thank you to Cathy and her family, noting, “They have been such strong supporters of Paul Abbey. I want them to know they are in our thoughts and prayers.”
Ted Shaw, who worked with Abbey for years on the SPTOR Committee and various projects around town, called Abbey “a great man,” adding he will be deeply missed.
“When I heard he had passed away I was very perplexed. Over the years we fought, argued, got along, talked about politics, religion. He was a very, very unique individual. South Pasadena lost a very big man.”
Abbey is survived by his loving wife, Cathy, three children, Michael Kaio, Amber Andrew and Robert Abbey, and five grandchildren, Saphire, 19, Kahale, 17, Joshua, 5, Samantha, 3 and Adam, 1.