Community rallies around seventh-grader after the death of his father |

Community rallies around seventh-grader after the death of his father

Sara Thompson
Alone but not without a family, Joseph Pauly gets support from friends and St. Theresa School.

With all that has happened to 13-year-old Joseph Pauly, a line from a John Lennon song comes to his mind: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans,” Joseph quoted from the song “Beautiful Boy.”

He said the line makes sense to him now.

In mid-April, Joseph found his father – who had been raising the teen as a single parent – lying on the floor in their apartment. Joseph called 911.

His father, Howard Pauly, 56, died April 18, leaving Joseph by himself.

At the time, Joseph hadn’t seen or heard from his two sisters in five years. And Joseph and Howard had lost touch with Joseph’s mother.

When he was asked who his next of kin was to notify, Joseph said it was St. Theresa School.

St. Theresa School Principal Danette Winslow said Joseph’s class rallied around him immediately. Joseph had almost forgotten his own birthday until a classmate handed him an invitation to a party on April 22 and told him he was invited to celebrate at Tahoe Bowl.

It was the second time Joseph had bowled, and he said he did better at the racing and shooting games. “It’s hard to remember everything, but yeah, I had a great time,” Joseph said a few days later.

Winslow said she began looking for Joseph’s two adult sisters. It took 10 days to track them down after their father’s death.

Melanie Pauly-Monterosa, one of his sisters, said she’s grateful to re-establish the bond with Joseph. She was able to attend the May 2 service for Howard, which Winslow helped the seventh-grade class organize.

Then last weekend, Joseph visited Pauly-Monterosa and her husband in their Vallejo home.

Joseph said he liked spending time with his 10-month-old nephew and his niece, who will be 2 years old in two weeks. He said his father would have loved to meet them.

“I hear my dad through him,” Pauly-Monterosa said.

She said it’s Joseph’s job to tell his niece and nephew stories about their grandfather.

Even though it’s almost a month later, support hasn’t let up for Joseph or his family. Pauly-Monterosa said some seventh-grade parents are helping her clean out her dad’s apartment, and they helped her with hotel accommodations while she’s staying up here.

“I never expected this,” she said. “This type of support just doesn’t happen everywhere.”

Winslow said a family has offered to pay for Joseph’s tuition for St. Theresa School next year, and a trust fund will be opened for him, too. She said people ask her every day if there’s anything they can do for Joseph.

Joseph described his relationship with his father as “really close” and recalled how his dad would make up funny songs and the two would watch Giants games together. Howard Pauly loved to cook, and Joseph often assisted as “prep cook.” Spaghetti sauce simmered all day in a crock pot was one of his specialties.

Joseph has been staying with a local family since his father’s death. He said he doesn’t know what the future will bring for him but said he knows things will turn out well.

“I still miss my dad, and I know he’s in a good place and will always be,” Joseph said.

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