BLOWING ROCK — Several years before he passed away this past week, I asked Paul Broyhill for an interview, one of my “Blowing Rock ONE on ONE with...” series. I think it was shortly after I attended a party at Blowing Rock Country Club, where he seemed to take great delight in being photographed dancing with his beautiful wife, Karen.
He declined the interview request. Instead, he gave me a book.
The book was, “This is Broyhill: The Family, The Company, The Community,” published by Keller Publishing of Marco Island, Fla., in 2010. A lower subtitle laid bare what the book really was about—: “The Memoir of Paul H. Broyhill.”
It was as if he knew I was coming. The book contains the answers to just about every question I might have asked including one, in the preface, that I probably wouldn’t have asked: what he wanted inscribed about him on his tombstone.
Death is such a delicate subject. I undoubtedly would have shied away from this question. In my admittedly limited experience, most of the people who have delighted in talking about passing away have been very old, wondering why God has kept them around so long.
Most people that we meet late in their lifetimes do not color our impressions of them with any kind of insight as to the years that have gone before. Maybe we just know them in passing as that rich guy driving the fancy Mercedes. Perhaps we know each other by first names while greeting each other at Sunny Rock, but we don’t really know each other’s past accomplishments or failures. Or, he invented something or other, made a lot of money, but he must have blown it because now he is a broken man, down on his luck. Mmmm, I think she was a nurse, has six grandkids, and she lives alone in that big house. But I don’t really know anything about the details of her life and living.
With Paul Broyhill in his memoirs, you get details. You catch glimpses of his sense of humor, his creativity, and a rarely found dogged persistence in many aspects of his life, such as his pursuit of and his winning the hand of Miss North Carolina. Not many get to chase their future wife in a Beech Bonanza, after all.
“’The Builder’ is what I want as my epitaph,” is how Broyhill began the preface to his memoirs. “I just love to design and build. I’m fairly creative and throughout the years I spent a large portion of my time in the design aspect of the furniture business. That experience helped me develop my creativity in other areas. I literally designed, with a lot of help of course, the structure of my companies, their organization, and their expansions.”
For anyone whose life was touched in even the smallest way by Paul Broyhill, the telling of his life and times in his own words is a fascinating read. For anyone with a sense of history and how individual lives are impacted by the acts of others, it is a must read.
There are too many anecdotes, too many details to list for a short newspaper article aimed at remembering the man. I am far from his closest friend in Blowing Rock, even though at times he made me feel that way. He inscribed on the inside of the book he gave me, near the copyright page, a brief message of how much he appreciated what I was contributing to local journalism in what has become my second professional career. Whether or not I am contributing anything at all, he made me feel special.
Paul Broyhill always seemed excited to see me, to greet me. But then I learned that is how he interacted with just about everyone he met. He loved people and, if he could, he delighted in helping them. Sometimes just his interest in what you are doing and his words of encouragement were enough.
‘The Builder’ is an appropriate epitaph in so many ways because Paul Broyhill built companies, he built a family, he helped build communities, and he built people up.
Paul Broyhill had a marvelous life journey, filled with adventure and accomplishment. He will be missed.