Paul Marsh, pioneer Patagonia rep from 1976 to 1995, lit out this Saturday on the road that cannot be mapped. He was 65.
I last talked to Paul in October; the litany of health problems did not sound good. Then came the e-mail in December. He was going off the road for his million-mile overhaul – hip, back, shoulder, knee. But he never went into the shop. The bloodwork turned out worrisome; the doctors at Emory worked for a couple of months to suss out what the numbers meant. On Saturday he had trouble breathing and thought he had the flu. Brenda took him to the hospital; his blood pressure was low and he died of sepsis that night.
In this space here you’ll find some appreciations of Paul from Mike Thompson, Steve Rogerson and Dawson “Chattanooga Does Not Exist” Wheeler, plus a roast I wrote that June Fox read aloud at Paul’s 50th birthday dinner and food fight. Please write your own line; this will be for Brenda.
[Bubba Sloan, Denny Mays and Paul Marsh, 1985: Three Georgia boys try out California's biggest hot tub. Photo: First appeared in the Patagonia Quarterly, 1985. Editor's note: Email your photo of Paul, with caption and photo credit, to thecleanestline[at]patagonia.com and we'll add it to this post.]
When I got the call I was reading at a picnic table in Fort Mason by old battery guns once trained on would-be 19th century invaders of San Francisco Bay. A gorgeous day – blue, slight breeze, high fifties. High spring. You could see the boats out and the swimmers from the Dolphin Club. Spring followed us home to Santa Barbara. Yesterday morning I could see, could feel, the light play in the leaves of the old cork tree outside my window.
When I remember Paul, I remember him in motion: two in the morning on a hot, all-fans-on-high Georgia night, packing the samples and folding the racks for the next day’s trip, or out at dusk feeding his dozen scrambling rescued dogs. I remember being on the other end of the phone listening to the motion of Paul’s mind and in the presence of a spirit that sailed all day at a steady 20 knots.
He had a wry sense of humor, a developed sense of justice, intensity – he could chain-smoke while chewing on a Nicorette – and a passion to get it done, all that he had to get done in a day. He was never mean and the only lie I ever heard him say was, talking to his fellow reps, “You know, I never tell the truth.” He was relentlessly loyal to the people and animals he decided were inside his tribe; we were legions. Working at my desk yesterday, feeling the light play in the leaves I wondered where Paul might be, and not allegorically. All that spirit; where does it go?