Paul Abbey, a longtime volunteer for the South Pasadena Tournament of Roses Committee, passed away on Friday due to a sudden massive heart attack, according to his family.
“Paul was one of those super volunteers,” said James Jontz, who labored long hours with Abbey over the year’s constructing the city’s entry in the annual Rose Parade in Pasadena. “He did everything.”
Not only did Abbey contribute many hours building the float, spending weeknights and weekends at the construction site behind the War Memorial Building, he also served as a volunteer at South Pasadena High calling Tiger Bingo at the time his children attended the school.
Over the years Abbey held numerous positions with the SPTOR committee, including serving as past chair. In addition, noted Jontz, Abbey was highly involved in Tiger Bingo at South Pasadena High School.
Jontz remembers Abbey as “the guy you wanted on your team because he would help out until three or four in the morning,” he recalls. “You could just count on him to get the job done.”
During the recent South Pasadena Cruz’n for Roses Hot Rod and Classic Car Show, Abbey spent much of the day around the chassis that will carry the city’s float in the Rose Parade on New Year’s Day. The 2020 entry “Victory at Last,” a salute to Women’s Suffrage, has been selected as the theme for the city’s entry, reflecting on the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granting women the right to vote.
“He was standing by the float talking about it with people pretty much all day,” recalls Jontz. “It meant a lot to him. He loved the float.”
You could always count on a tear or two coming from Abbey once the city float was completed on the eve of the Rose Parade each year. The man had a lot to do with it, from design to completion, and he showed nothing but pride, allowing his emotions to flow. “When the float was done, he was so impressed, so proud of it,” said Jontz. “It’s a huge loss. He was the guy who we trusted and knew what to do.”
Rob Benjamin, married to SPTOR Decoration Chair Janet Benjamin, has been with the construction crew since 2011. Fighting back tears Saturday morning, he expressed his sadness in Abbey’s loss, adding: “It has been personal, surprise, shock. He was a key member. It’s tough.”
Abbey had a strong work ethic, Benjamin noting his fellow worker was always “professional, always pushing, giving guidance, to get the float done, and everyone valued his input. He spent a lot of time with the float. He was just a really good, nice guy. He was there for everybody.”
Benjamin will miss working alongside Abbey, a man “who definitely went above and beyond to help produce this,” he continued, as construction crew members somberly worked on the float behind him, reflecting on all the good their fallen friend left on them.
Among those working on the float was Brandt Dunlap, the vice chair of the SPTOR and member of the construction crew. “He was the first who taught me how to weld, to sculpt,” Dunlap said. “He was a very patient man and just kind to everybody. He was a wonderful and amazing person.”
Dunlap remembers Paul many times being the first to arrive at the War Memorial Building to work on the float and the last to leave. “He was very focused. If he saw someone struggling or had some advice to share, he’d take the time to say, ‘Let me show you another way. This has worked for me. It might work for you.’ He was always watching, helping, very committed and very oriented in getting things done properly.”
Abbey, who was in his mid-60s and a 1972 graduate of Alhambra High School, was the owner of Abbey Graphics in Arcadia and known for “being very giving to organizations, groups and people if they reached out to him for printing,” explained Dunlap, “whether it be posters, banners, graphics. It could be something from the high school, the boosters, bingo, the Tournament (of Roses), the Chamber of Commerce. He never said no to anybody.”
Abbey should be remembered, according to Dunlap, as a man “who loved family, loved kids, and really, really loved community involvement and the spirit of people working together, and watching people accomplish something as a team.”
Bill Culinane served on the South Pasadena Tournament of Roses Committee with Abbey, and while his interaction initially revolved around the float, it later branched into other areas. “I found Paul to be exceptionally dedicated to whatever task was at hand and his creativity and skilled artistry when it came to helping build the South Pasadena float was beyond impressive,” said Cullinane. “I always admired his ability/desire to continue learning and master news skills. Probably the one trait I appreciated most and had the greatest impact on me was his extraordinarily straight forward manner in dealing with people and issues. If you wanted the unvarnished truth and a straight forward answer to a direct question he was the one you would approach.”
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