Paul Robert Porvaznik


Died June 28, 2006

College: Jonathan Edwards

Widow: Mrs. Paul R. Porvasnik
Apartment 101
7029 East Lincoln Street
Wichita, KS 67207-2647

Children: Paul B. Porvaznik, 1971

Paul Robert Porvaznik was a complex man. He was the quiet guy at a party who was probably the smartest one in the room. Quiet only if he wasn’t drinking, of course, for then he was the most mercurial.

Paul was extremely well read…and like my mother who was a teacher and librarian, Paul read a book a day till the day he died. He read all kinds of books and every newspaper on the planet. He took a speed reading course at Harvard one summer and spent hours in the library weekly. I, on the other hand, preferred movies and television, but when I could actually drag him to the cinema, he fell asleep and snored.

My brother called him a dreamer. Paul had folders of all kinds of entrepreneurial ideas he wanted to trot out, and even saw several of them come to fruition. Paul worked in space and radio sales for most of his working career with Time, Life, Barrons, CBS and the Wall Street Journal. But the creative side of him yearned to start businesses. He created some kind of hard aluminum horsestall once and even sold the idea to another Yalie—Howard Wilkins. He and two other guys tried their luck building a theme water park called FantaSea. It was a class act, but the flumes were so fast and treacherous, the kids flew down them wearing helmets on their heads and pads on their knees and elbows.

Paul and I started a city magazine in the 80s—and Howard was involved in that venture as well. (We could always count on Howard for money. Howard had the midas touch!) City mags were just coming into vogue at that time, and we never had so much fun in our lives. We got so excited if we made any kind of a profit…every little thing was cause for celebration. Of course, we borrowed money at 23% and we had to teach ourselves the technology which was photographic at the time and heavily dependent on the silver market. What the heck, we were in our 30s and thought we could do anything. Living in Wichita, a town at that time pretty much encased in the 50s, clueless people like us could just about do anything and succeed.

An ironic venture was the NO! Game, a card game that played into the dangers of smoking and drinking (imagine Paul creating that!) which we sold to some teaching organization for several thousand dollars. Paul published a Wichita monopoly game; developed a toy chest that looked like a toy block; chased the market with gourmet popcorn, and the coup de gras that ended his entrepreneurial run: a corregated bird feeder, filled with seed, that you could punch up and hang from a tree. The demise of the feeder came when Hartz Mountain tested it in its warehouse. The bird seed had somehow gotten infected, and when Hartz unpacked the feeders, weevils flew into the atmosphere. Needless to say, that ended his dream.

Years later, after our son started law school, Paul learned they were using his bird feeder as a test case…so in the end, it had a purpose afterall.

Paul lost his voice in the late 80s. An accident paralyzed his vocal chord and he had to have Teflon inserted around the chord to give him resonance. That impacted his working life from then on and sadly, became the site for throat cancer at the end of his life.

Paul kept a scrapbook of his days at Yale…I truly believe they were his best days. He’d talk about the accomplishments of his classmates with such pride, and drag out his Yale yearbook and point to the men he was talking about. I think secretly Paul blamed the big changes in the Ivy League, Yale and country on letting women into the university. He loved Yale the way it was and took great pride in telling his son his picture was on the wall at Mory’s.

Paul was a men’s club kind of guy, and when he took me back to Yale after we were married to show me the eating clubs, I think he was stunned to see men and women with long, stingy hair and flip flops wading about the hallowed halls. I remember asking, “Who are those people, Paul.” And he replied, “Townies.”

Paul did not have it easy at the end. His working life grew cold and that’s really the one thing he loved to do: work. Like many men of a certain era, he did not have hobbies, didn’t play sports after the 80s and became frustrated with the political world. He did not embrace changes in technology and wondered as many of us did what made the world tick at the turn of the century.

In 2005, Paul developed cancer. He did not suffer much and was stoic to the end. He was a great dad, and while there are few photos since I cut them all up and made a huge, framed photo montage in one of my bursts of creative energy, I am sending along two photos of our son taken recently on a trip to England. If you want to know what Paul looked like in his 40s, just look at our son. He looks exactly like his dad.

—by Pamela Porvaznik