Friends, family and co-workers gathered Saturday to remember a man whose careers, passions and hobbies made him an Astoria fixture.
Paul Gillum earned awards for his service in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War, as an Astoria Police officer and a member of the Clatsop Community College Board of Directors. He later became a deacon at Lewis and Clark Bible Church, a Clatsop County Sheriff’s Office transport deputy and an artist.
He died suddenly on June 18, four days short of his 68th birthday. Saturday’s memorial at the church included remembrances, an American flag salute, prayers and Christian songs.
Driving in town
Gillum and his family settled in Astoria in the mid-1960s. They had spent time in Warrenton before while camping at Fort Stevens State Park. Tim Gillum, his brother and a former Astoria Police corporal, recalled an early impression their father, Donald, offered about their new home.
“You guys aren’t going to be driving here in Astoria,” he told his sons. “Too many hills.”
As it turned out, Gillum’s commitments made driving a necessity.
After returning to Astoria in 1974 from Vietnam, where he earned awards like the Vietnam Service Medal and the Combat Action Ribbon his six-year tour, he became a Medix paramedic and reserve police officer in Astoria. He became a full-time officer in 1979, a position he held for 27 years.
He twice earned the Medal of Valor for rescuing bystanders from gunfire. In 1989, he became a U.S. marshal, which allowed him to patrol federal properties during his police shifts, and he also became a detective. Gillum headed security for a number of Hollywood movies filmed in Astoria, including “The Goonies” and “Kindergarten Cop.”
Astoria Police Deputy Chief Eric Halverson, who at 16 years old joined Gillum during his patrol shift for a ride-along, described his mentor as respectful, compassionate, gracious, fun, kind, gentle, uplifting and an optimist with a wonderful laugh. Since Gillum’s death, the department has received condolence calls, not only from people he worked with, but also from those he arrested.
“In the difficulties of the world, there’s something to be learned from someone who has served others so well,” Halverson said. “See, it was not just part of his job. It was part of his life’s work.”
Gillum served 16 years on the Clatsop Community College Board of Directors after he was first elected in 1999. At one point, the college faced a loss of accreditation due to outdated facilities. But Gillum was integral to the efforts that led to Columbia Hall’s construction, as well as other restoration efforts, Rosemary Baker-Monaghan, the board’s chairwoman, said.
She recalled a handful of times when Gillum would attend a board meeting during a patrol shift. He would arrive in full uniform and communicate with dispatchers and other officers over radio, often forcing him to respond to a call during a meeting.
“As unsettling as that can be every once in a while when you remember that he was a police officer, it was also one of the best things about working with Paul,” Baker-Monaghan said. “He had an ability in a discussion to give someone a new or different perspective on any given issue under consideration because he understood where you were coming from.”
After his retirement from the Police Department, Gillum became a transport deputy with the Clatsop County Sheriff’s Office, as well as a deacon. Members of the Lewis and Clark Bible Church recalled Gillum’s love of donuts, easy fodder for jokes considering his previous career.
He held a number of hobbies, such as car collecting and traveling, and he was well-known as a sculptor. One of his most famous works is the Astoria Centennial fountain in Maritime Memorial Park, which he restored in 2011 for the city’s bicentennial.
Albert Wood, one of Gillum’s best friends, was also a Vietnam War veteran and member of the Astoria Police Department. He reflected on the multiple occasions when Gillum would him help through emotional issues in his own life. During his remarks Saturday, he turned toward Gillum’s wife of 45 years, Jo Abing, and his son, James Gillum — an Iraq War veteran.
“Jo, I loved him, too,” he said. “I know it’s hard to share him, but I had a piece of him.”