Print Story Five minutes
By johnny (Thu May 15, 2008 at 03:39:29 PM EST) (all tags)
Four people will be giving talks at the memorial service for my brother on Saturday.  I'm first.

I'm supposed to just give the "obit", the chronology, the biography, whatever you want to call it. Five minutes to sum up his life. 

All the weepy reflections and amusing stories come from the guys who follow me.  Anyway, my draft appears below & if you have any suggestions I would appreciate it before I send it to my sister-in-law.

It will probably take twenty minutes for me to read this. Oh well. I'll either edit it down or people will just have to deal with it.

Paul Damien Sundman born on September 14, 1962, in Montclair, New Jersey, the fourth son and seventh of seven children born to John Sundman, a native of New Jersey, and Margaret McFall Sundman, who had emigrated to the United States from Scotland after the Second World War. The family name "Sundman" is Swedish, by way of Finland, from which Paul's grandfather emigrated in the early part of the last century.

Paul spent the first year of his life in the farmhouse at 31 Grandview Avenue, in North Caldwell, New Jersey, then moved with his mother, father, brothers, sisters and paternal grandparents half a mile up the road to the new family house at 93 Grandview Avenue, which was built by his father. During the years of Paul's childhood, his hometown became suburbanized as the remaining farms and woodlands were converted to housing.

From the moment of his birth he was charming, tall, dark and handsome. He was the apple of his grandparent's eye and was doted upon by his older brothers and sisters. He had a special bond with his cousin, the late Tommy Seebode.

Paul had a typical suburban American childhood, attending small neighborhood schools, hanging out with friends, playing sports, riding his bike and skateboarding.

Paul's skill at collecting halloween candy was legendary, and has been inherited by his son Kyle.

After his 8th grade, Paul moved with his parents to Perrysburg Ohio, where he attended high school for one year. The family then moved to Connecticut, where Paul attended high school through graduation.

From an early age his athletic gifts were evident. In high school he played soccer, and was named to several all-conference teams. His position was midfield. He began surfing at eight, under the tuteleage of his oldest brother Michael.

It was in Ohio that a lucky confluence of events proved momentous for Paul and, eventually, for literally millions of people all over the world during the ensuing decades. The family house was located high above the Maumee River, with a long steep hill, sort of a natural backyard ski run, down to the water. Immediately after Paul and his parents had moved to the new house-- the rest of us had by then grown up and moved away-- before Paul had met a soul, a big storm came up and dropped so much snow that there was a snow emergency for six weeks. And Paul had this Snurfer, a snow surfer. Already a skilled skateboarder, and with nothing else to do, he took his chops outside. We'll come back to this.

Paul attended Vanderbilt University in Tennesee, where he majored in English, minored in French Literature, and played varsity soccer for four years.

(Now here I'm going to lift a little bit from the obituary written by Pauls' dear friend Rob Burnett.)

While at Vanderbilt, Paul spent a semester of his junior year studying in Aix-en-Provence in the south of France. During his spring break, Paul visited Chamonix, France, where, on a train station platform, he met another American also studying abroad. The fellow traveler was Jennifer Ann Young, the daughter of the architect James Young of Colorado Springs and his wife Ann Young. Jennifer would become the love of Paul's life. Paul and Jennifer were married five years after their train-platform encounter and celebrated their 20th anniversary in January of this year. Their son Kyle was born in 1992 and daughter Jillian in 1995.

Sometime during high school or college--nobody remembers quite when--Paul sent a letter introducing himself to Jake Burton Carpenter, who was struggling heroically to start a new company in Vermont called Burton Snowboards. Jake Carpenter offered Paul a summer job, and over the next several summers, Paul worked at this new enterprise as Jake built not just a company, but a whole new sport and industry, from scratch. Upon graduation from Vanderbilt, Paul went to work at Burton Boards full time. When Paul was twenty one years old, Carpenter made him Vice President and National Sales Manager for Burton Snowboards, which, Jake points out, meant that Paul was effectively worldwide sales manager. He was involved with all facets of the company from manufacturing to marketing to competition boarding. Several of the people that Paul hired are still with the company, 25 years later.

Since at that time snowboarding was still banned at many ski resorts, a big part of Paul's job was to convince safety directors at ski resorts that snowboarding was no more dangerous than skiing. So Jake paid Paul to go from ski resort to ski resort all over North America, showing the world what snowboarding was all about. It was a difficult assignment, but, slowly, one small victory at a time, snowboarding became allowed, then took root.

As such, Paul Sundman was the first professional snowboarder in the world.

I'm going to repeat that for the benefit of Kyle and Jillian. Paul Sundman was the world's first professional snowboarder. Every other professional snowboarder follows in his tracks.

Paul left Burton Boards to get an MBA at Georgetown, in Washington DC, where Jennifer was working at the National Zoo. He wanted to get a more formal training, but also, as Jake told me, "clearly he was in love with Jennifer and needed to be near her."

After obtaining the MBA, Paul did a two-year stint as a young consultant in the corporate world.

It's OK to laugh now. Paul Sundman, Yuppie Power Consultant MBA. Raise your hand if you think he hated it.

You're right. He did.

Paul and Jennifer left corporate life and moved to Colorado Springs, this wonderful city, and Paul soon opened his mountain bike and snowboard shop called "Momentum", on Tejon. It was a wonderful place full of bikes, boards, life, energy, and fun. But small retail is a nearly impossible business, and Momentum was forced to close its doors after four years. It was a great store, and I hope you got a chance to see it during its short life.

At the tail end of the Momentum period, Paul created a clothing line called "High Ridge" for mountain biking. Like other clothes for bike riding, High Ridge clothes were padded and comfortable. Unlike all other biking clothes that were then available, High Ridge clothes did not look dorky. His operation was not big enough or ruthless enough to succeed, so High Ridge folded. But the clothes he produced during that short time were great, and I treasure my High Ridge shorts highly.

Had he done nothing else in his life other than create non-dorky clothes that you can wear when riding a bicycle, his life would be worth celebrating today.

And they're durable too! I still use mine! Thank you, Paul.

After Momentum closed, Paul went to work for his father-in-law James Young, owner of a several apartment buildings, which I'll refer to by the name of one of the buildings, the Mayfair. These apartments provide decent, afordable housing, primarily to people with considerable mental and physical challenges. At this office Paul maintained the facilities, ordered equipment and scheduled repairs, provided compiliance information to the appropriate government agencies, handled tenant relations, and totally computerized everything.

He was the office diplomat, universally esteemed for his ability to talk to tenants and employees and work out problems-- as I myself witnessed on many occasions when I used the James Young headquarters as a remote office. The work that Paul did there with his father-in-law was not as glamorous as helping to create the sport of snowboarding, but it was important and profound work. For the way that any community provides for people who need the kind of services that Paul and Jim provided determines what kind of community it is. The fact that the Mayfair apartments exist, and that they are not just well run but lovingly run, is one of the reasons that Colorado Springs is the beautiful place it is. In this way, Paul contributed greatly to the overall quality of life for the residents of this city.

Paul was a devoted husband and father. He was a dutiful and loving son. He was a great friend; his friend David Newsom told me "Paul set the gold standard for friendship." The fact that so many of Paul's pals from North Caldwell, New Jersey, a town he left when he was 13 years old, are here today tells you something about what kind of friend he was. And as a brother, he was ideal. He kind, he was funny, he was open, he was hardworking, he was truthful and he was loyal. This is the essence of who he was, as other speakers after me will elaborate.

He was a great soccer coach and a great teacher, not only because of his athletic gifts and understanding of the game, but also because he delighted, as my brother-in-law Joe pointed out, in everybody's success.

Paul was a superb soccer player, a skateboarder, surfer, snowboarder and bike rider. He rode 1,135 miles on his mountain bike in 1999, a number that Jennifer was able to provide for me with great precsion because it's written in indelible marker on their garage wall. That's a lot of miles on a mountain bike. He had a light on his bike and would go early in the morning, before dawn sometimes. He broke his collar bone, and once had a race with a bear. He loved local trails like Capn' Jacks and Buckhorn. He rode his bike to the top of Pikes Peak several years in a row in the annual race.

Paul became adept at yoga, (Ashtanga and Iyengar), and went from being what he described as "super stiff and inflexible" to doing some pretty amazing things. Now of course when Paul said "super stiff and inflexible" he didn't mean what you and I mean by those terms. It's like when Tiger Woods says, "I sucked today." Paul took Yoga seriously and joyously, going to many classes, and geting up to do his routine in the living room at 5:30am.

Paul loved to read books on yoga, and on the mind, and he relished autobiographies. He recently listened to Eric Clapton's and Barak Obama's books on CD and loved them.

His taste in movies ran to comedies, and the stupider the beter. He liked Monty Python and "Spinal Tap" and "Best in Show" and Will Ferrell movies. Last year Paul and Kyle and I went to see "Talledega Nights" -- that Will Ferrell movie about Nascar racing -- and the poor people all around us were terrified that the guy in the robot wheelchair was going to croak from laughter right before their eyes.

Austin Powers. Let's not even talk about Austin Powers.

My brother-in-law Bob, who is a financial expert specializing in bonds, told me that Paul used to email him to talk about stocks. "He was quite the riverboat gambler", Bob said. And why wouldn't he be, after seeing what Jake Carpenter had done with Burton Boards, or what his dear friend Rob Burnett had done with the Letterman Show, or what his brother Peter had done in his career? Paul was an inveterate optimist and he believed that people were good and that they would succeed.

Paul loved music, and he had good taste: The Band, Little Feet, Beatles, REM, the Stones, Clapton. Recently the Dave Carter-Tracy Grammer duo, and Peter Mayer were some of his favorites.

He liked good beer and gin-and-tonic.

He was on the board of Cheyenne Commons, charged with saving and protecting the open space across the street from the house that he and Jennifer and their children have always called home.

Then he got ALS, and, as you all know, he stared down that disease more courage, and humor and grace, I dare say, than the rest of us in this room together could muster were we in his situation. His middle name was Damien, after the leper-saint of Molokai, and like Damien, Paul, in the face of bodily torment was fearless and without self-pity.

If I may editorialize for a moment, Leprosy, more properly called Hansen's Disease, has been cured, thanks, in no small part to Damien. Let us resolve to find the cause of, and a cure for ALS in honor of this saint we celebrate today.

Speaking only for myself, when I needed a kick in the ass, he gave me a kick in the ass. And when I needed to be told I was alright, he told me I was alright. I am ten years older than Paul, but I always looked to him for guidance and advice.

According to my Swedish sources, there are two meanings for the word "sund", as in Sundman. They both correspond to a meaning of the English word "sound" :

  1. meaning strait, or body of water, as in "Long Island Sound", and
  2. meaning healthy, sane, as in "safe and sound".
Well if Sundman means "waterman", then Paul lived up to his name, as anybody who ever saw him swim or surf can attest.

But I like to think that Sundman means "sane man", "healthy man", "man who knows how to live." For showing us the meaning of those words, Paul has put all of us, especially those of us lucky enough to share his name, forever in his debt.

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Five minutes | 17 comments (17 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
It will be an awesome 20 minutes by georgeha (4.00 / 3) #1 Thu May 15, 2008 at 03:55:30 PM EST

What an awesome obit! by muchagecko (4.00 / 3) #2 Thu May 15, 2008 at 04:10:03 PM EST
Would you write mine?

"It means more if you have to earn it, even if it's by doing something as simple as eating a meal." Kellnerin
Sure, but not yet. by johnny (4.00 / 2) #3 Thu May 15, 2008 at 04:16:08 PM EST
Amen to that. by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #4 Thu May 15, 2008 at 04:57:20 PM EST
Your sincerity is shining through on this one. It's great, johnny, but I suspect it'll run longer than 20 minutes. Have you timed it yet?

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
No but by johnny (4.00 / 2) #5 Thu May 15, 2008 at 05:03:01 PM EST
I'm getting together with my brother and sisters and Rob Burnett and Jake Carpenter tomorrow night and we'll sort it out. Over Paul memorial gin-and-tonics, of course.

Paul's best friend was Rob Burnett, who is David Letterman's partner & "Late Night" producer & former head writer on Letterman for ten years.  He'll be giving the main eulogy and I expect it will be a stunner.  My brother Peter is to speak also.  My brother Mike said he's not going to speak but will sit in the front row and throw things at me if I go on too long.
Buy my books, dammit!

[ Parent ]
it took him a lifetime to live it... by clock (4.00 / 2) #6 Thu May 15, 2008 at 05:06:48 PM EST
...if you run over by a few minutes, i think it'll be ok.

beautifully done, friend.

I agree with clock entirely --Kellnerin

Awesome. by reza (4.00 / 1) #7 Thu May 15, 2008 at 05:10:05 PM EST
That is a beautiful tribute to what was a beautiful life. 

My condolences on his passing. 
He left you enriched by his life.

" Be who you are and say how you feel, because those who mind do not matter, and those who matter do not mind!" Dr. Seuss

This is beautiful. by toxicfur (4.00 / 2) #8 Fri May 16, 2008 at 02:16:41 AM EST
Thank you for sharing it with us. I really wish I could've known your brother.
To Rollins lesbians are like cuddly pandas: cute, exotic, forest-dwelling, dangerous when riled and unable to produce offspring without assistance.-CRwM
a good kid ... by mike7pilot (4.00 / 2) #9 Fri May 16, 2008 at 03:03:25 AM EST
I remember meeting Paul at the Sundman house in New Jersey in 1974. I guess he must have been 12. He
impressed me immediately as a happy, energetic child with a bright smile and a sunny personality. A good kid!

Damn by iGrrrl (4.00 / 2) #10 Fri May 16, 2008 at 03:11:48 AM EST
You made me cry.

It's beautiful

"Beautiful wine, talking of scattered everythings"
(and thanks to Scrymarch)

Thanks. by ambrosen (4.00 / 3) #11 Fri May 16, 2008 at 03:23:17 AM EST
That's a story that makes the rest of us face life with courage, grace and humour.

I'm guessing it will be tough . . . by slozo (4.00 / 2) #12 Fri May 16, 2008 at 04:08:57 AM EST
. . . to get through that well-written speech, but it will be worth it. My respects.

Sounds like an amazing guy.

There should be no time limit for these things by Phil the Canuck (4.00 / 1) #13 Fri May 16, 2008 at 06:24:11 AM EST
They are what they need to be, and are as long as they should be.

Well done by Gedvondur (4.00 / 1) #14 Fri May 16, 2008 at 06:30:07 AM EST
Moving and inspirational.

My sympathies for your loss.

"If you do not sin, then you too may some day float like a big pink Goodyear blimp of The Lord." -theboz

it would be unfair by Kellnerin (4.00 / 1) #15 Sat May 17, 2008 at 04:16:37 AM EST
to cut this. I hope you didn't have to.

"Late to the party" is the new "ahead of the curve" -- CRwM
Stunning. by moonvine (4.00 / 1) #16 Tue May 20, 2008 at 05:21:10 AM EST
Both your words and your brother's awesome life. Thank you.

beautiful by LilFlightTest (4.00 / 1) #17 Sun May 25, 2008 at 04:17:21 PM EST
i can only hope that someday i'm worthy of a eulogy such as that.
if de-virgination results in me being able to birth hammerhead sharks, SIGN ME UP!!! --misslake
Five minutes | 17 comments (17 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback