Elva and Carl in Australia, around the time of their engagement.

    Elva Paul grew up in Newcastle, Australia.  She was a young woman during WWII.  I don’t remember the specifics so if you happen to have known Elva, or are her family, please forgive my lack of the details as I heard these stories here and there when she was my Sunday School Teacher at St. Nicholas Orthodox Church and here and there growing up.  She met her husband Carl when he was stationed there during the War.  If I remember correctly, I believe her Dad had a restaurant and maybe that is where they met.  Anyway, Carl was going back to Flint, Michigan after the war and he was going to work in his family’s restaurant with a cousin of his, Angelo.  Before leaving to go back to the states, he asked Elva’s father for her hand in marriage.  Carl ‘s family had come to Flint from Macedonia and as what was customary of the Macedonians, he went ahead back to the US to work and get himself established, and he would send for Elva when he was ‘set.’

This is the caption that goes along with photo above from Carl and Elva's daughter, Karen Paul Holmes's book, "No Such Thing as Distance" (Terrapin Books).

    Elva set sail with a few other young women in similar situations.  She roomed with a few other girls all going to start a new life as a new wife.  I remember Elva telling me details of Carl and his cousin, Angelo, and his wife, Vera picking her up from the train station and  Carl had surprised her and had bought a house.  They all took her to see the house.  She was thrilled and stayed with Vera and Angelo until she and Carl were married.  The restaurant that Carl and Angelo operated was the original Angelo’s Coney Island in Flint, Michigan, which is legend in Genesee County.  Those two guys worked their tails off and they benefitted from their hard work.  Carl and Elva went on to have five children, 4 girls and 1 boy.  Four of their children went to the University of Michigan and their youngest child went to Oakland University.  All were very smart, creative, musically and artistically inclined.  Carl and Elva had a tennis court installed in their backyard just outside of Flint and they gave their five children a wonderful start in life.  As their children grew up and left the nest,  most of their vacations were trips visiting them and their grandchildren all over Michigan and the US.  They wintered in Jupiter, Florida and the two of them had a long and happy life together.  

Elva and her son, Phillip.

    Mrs. Paul always made the Bible lessons interesting.  She would tie the stories to things that pertained to our lives as kids.  She often talked about music and art or  their trips when they added something to the Sunday School lesson or at the end of class as we were preparing to wrap up class and go into Church, right before Communion was served.  She had the most pleasant countenance and she could get the best behavior even out of the most restless of little boys with her calm and soothing voice.  For those who needed more coaxing that they needed to behave during the remaining portion of the service after Communion, she would breakout the little round tin of fruit flavored  hard candies.  She was one of the most positive people I have ever known.  She always looked at the bright side of anything.  Maybe that’s what it would take to leave your family to go clear across the world for the man you loved.  Even her pretty dresses were evidence of her optimism with bright colors and always pretty jewelry or accessories.

    In their later years, after Carl and Angelo sold the Coney Island to four younger cousins from Bouf, Macedonia, Carl came down with Parkinson’s disease.  Back then there were not  nearly the medications and treatments available today.  Mrs. Paul took it in stride and encouraged Carl to travel, get in a golf card and go and do.  It may or may not have been doctor’s orders but Elva felt that for Carl to sit and just think about what he was dealing with would be the end of him. They went and did, they traveled, their kids encouraged them and traveled with them.  To be involved in the lives of five very successful and vibrant adults, each in their own element, was the best medicine for  Carl.  From what I remember, one daughter was an artist in northern Michigan, one daughter went on to be a writer and one a furniture craftsman and designer in New York City, I do not remember what the other children are doing, but there is no doubt in my mind that they are successful and happy with what they do (did, if they are retired now) as Elva and Carl brought them up to be diligent at their work.  When he passed away, well into his eighties, Elva told us that at the time, he had been the longest living person with Parkinson’s in Michigan.

These are the candies, or something very similar, are the candies I rmember Mrs. Paul keeping on hand in her purse to calm a restless child during Church. I now carry these too.

    I am not sure how old Mrs. Paul was when she was my Sunday School Teacher.  She always seemed the same age.  Always looked the same.  Her hair got a little lighter as she got older but she never lost that sense of wonder, adventure, classic style, interest in art or music.  Mrs. Paul was alway curious.  She wanted to know how YOU were doing, how YOUR life was going.  She could strike up a conversation with anyone and she was always eager to hear about what was going on in your life and she would share when you asked about her family.  There are many stories I remember of Mrs. Paul but I remember a very telling story of a conversation at Church one Sunday when one of her daughters, probably early twenties, was engaged and she had called off the engagement.  People at Church were saying to her, in a very caring and concerned manner, how sorry they were that the engagement w as called off.  Elva very pleasantly accepted their condolences, and then said to me and my Mom who were having coffee with her after Church, “I am glad she called it off if she felt it wasn’t the right thing, why would Carl and I want he to go through with something she didn’t feel good about.”  That stuck with me over the years.  The daughter went on to marry a man she loved and they are happily married all these years later.

    As I have gotten older and less busy, it’s fun to look back on the teachers and mentors who have had an impact in my life.  School teachers and principals are the first to come to mind when I think of those who had the most influence, beyond parents and you maybe feel the same.  However, there are other adults in our lives who have a lasting impact, as well.  Maybe they were a coach, a neighbor or someone who was just there in the background during very formative years at a very impressionable time in our lives.  For me, I’d have to say it was, Mrs. Paul.   She influenced me to travel, to be creative, to be adventurous and to be optimistic.  She is no longer around, but I often think of her.  When I think about how she (and Carl) raised their five children, all to be good people, hard workers and so creative, it’s something to be commended.  Each was nurtured to be the person they were meant to be, as long as they were good citizens and hard working, most likely what they were most proud of.  

    Celebrating a milestone in life the last few weeks, and reflecting on sixty years, I’m feeling like I’m becoming Mrs. Paul, striking up conversations with people I don’t know, asking them where they are from and what they are up to, always trying to look at the bright side, keeping some little candies in a tin in my bag to wet my whistle or to contain a small child or grandchild, looking for adventure and hoping that I encouraged our kids to be who they were meant to be as long as they are good people and work hard…Yes, I think I’m becoming Mrs. Paul and it’s rather nice…

Wishing you a Great Day ❤️

Mrs. Paul inspired creativity and adventure in her children and others, like me, I'm thinking.