A Good Man

Once in a while a man comes along who quietly shows his children that he married the love of his life by holding her face and kissing her when he comes home from work every day. Then, smiling and opening his arms for those children to be embraced in a group hug. A man--who 49 years later--still kisses his wife the same way and wraps those same strong arms around his children and granddaughters. Once in a while a man comes along who balances his wife’s spontaneity by “always having her back”. Once in a while a man comes along who—hand in hand with her—gives his children roots by keeping his word, being their #1 fan, providing a loving home, fixing their things, listening, drying their tears, talking about his own childhood, and by being a safe place to land. At the same time, this man—hand in hand with his wife--gives his children wings by teaching them how to learn, empowering them to be independent, laughing as they have fun together, telling jokes, sending them to college, dancing together at their weddings, and doing it all again for his children's children. This Good Man’s name is Paul Fournier.

Paul, the son of Emile and Mary Fournier, was born on March 18, 1942 in Fort Frances, Ontario. He was raised in a log cabin deep in the bush on Clearwater Lake with his sisters Joan, Elaine, Gale, Jane, Jean, Donna and his brother Larry.  The love Emile and Mary had for each other clearly passed on to each of their children—they all loved one another and shared a great sense of humor.

Paul was a Canadian boy who quickly became a man by coming to the United States--with empty pockets--to live with a family he barely knew at the time in order to get a better education. He began by attending Markleville High School in 1958 where he met his beautiful wife-to-be, Joyce Markle. Joyce and Paul married on August 11, 1963. He spent his adult life loving her, his three Michigan State Alumni children Nicole, Coty, and Brandon Fournier, and his two "best friends" his granddaughters, Brielle Nicole Fernandez and Norah McAteer Fournier.

Paul achieved his B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from Tri-State College. His 33-year career as an Aerospace Engineer for Aeroquip, Inc. was spent earning worldwide acclaim and 28 U.S. patents as well as serving as Engineering Director before his 1998 retirement. He was widely respected amongst his colleagues as a brilliant creative problem-solver of his generation. Paul was a born inventor who had a passion for learning and teaching others.

Before playing or watching hockey games, Paul stood equally proud as he listened to the national anthems of the United States and Canada.  Many will tell you that FOURNIER #11 was a beautiful skater. He laughed with his friends and brother while golfing and fishing. He took pride in remodeling his home and his children’s homes. Helping family, friends and his children's friends with everyday needs came naturally to him.

On the morning of June, 19, 2013, Paul was enjoying another one of his passions--riding his Harley Davidson. While riding, he heard an unfamiliar sound in his Harley's motor. Distracted by the sound and trying to analyze its source, he inadvertently lost control of his Harley, rode into the woods, and hit a log. He suffered a concussion, a gash to his head, three cracked ribs, a punctured lung, and a cracked knee-cap. He was treated for six days at Allegiant Health in Jackson before being released with temporary home health care assistance. Rather than have his children/granddaughters see his injuries, he told them to wait and travel as planned for his and Joyce's 50th wedding anniversary this August. He was expected to make a full recovery by then. He spent the next four days resting, practicing standing/walking with a walker, eating lite meals, watching old westerns and hockey games, and talking/texting with his family.

On the morning of June 28, 2013, Paul wrote a quick message that said "Beauty...Feeding Fish, Got Cell" (signed with a heart instead of his name). When Joyce awoke and read his message, she went down to their boardwalk on Lake LeAnn. Paul was not there, but she noticed a cane lying on the dock. Knowing that he had only practiced with a walker and never a cane, she immediately ran to her neighbor who called 911. Then Joyce called her children, Paul's brother Larry, and her own sister, Jan, who all drove and/or flew to the Fournier home. The Police sent nine police cars, a helicopter, ground dogs, water dogs, and a sonar boat. The search was joined by friends, neighbors, a local construction crew, and people covering both land and water until it was called off due to weather. State of Michigan, Michigan State Police TPR Art McNew informed Joyce that the search would be resumed at 8 a.m. the next morning. The family waited together until dawn. Fleeting hope and terror were endured mixed with feelings of love and gratitude for Paul and one another.

On June 29, 2013 before the police and search party arrived, Paul's daughter Coty decided to show her Uncle Larry the grounds and the dock. Larry and his son, Justin, had driven all the way from north of Minneapolis arriving after dark; therefore, Larry had been unable to search for his brother until now.

The lake was tranquil, there were no people or watercraft in sight. Larry and Coty walked out to the end of the dock. Larry looked over the water's horizon and said "Where are you, Paul?" At that exact moment, approximately 120 feet out from where he was standing, Larry saw his brother’s body heading towards them. Larry held Coty to himself and told her he could see her Dad. She said she wanted to see him too. She was grateful for this moment and called it graceful closure. She then ran to her brother who called 911. He asked the police to please call off the search and send only the officials necessary. No alarms. No sirens. The police and fire department honored his request.

The family wanted to be alone with Paul. You see, with no human intervention, Paul quickly and quietly returned right to the place where he had been feeding the fish and stopped. He remained there the entire time upright in the water with his strong shoulders and arms extending open towards his home and his family... just as he did for those 49 years in a group hug. In the words of the family: “He was waiting for us all to be together--privately and peacefully. LOVE brought him home.”

TPR McNew, Firefighter Ed Zysk and Firefighter Greg King quietly arrived. The family was asked to avoid watching Paul be removed from the water. TPR McNew gave his solemn word to Joyce that she would be able to hold Paul's hand one more time. With Paul now on the boardwalk of the Fournier family property, TPR McNew came to Joyce and said "I'm keeping my promise, Joyce. You can hold his hand now. Take as much time as you need". Then, he respectfully protected the Fourniers at a distance.

The immediate family held Paul's strong hand, hugged, and kissed him, as they said how much they loved him, how much they knew he loved them, thanked him for being a good Husband, a good Dad, a good Grandpa to Brielle and Norah, for loving their Mom so much, and for being a Good Man. Then, Larry went to say good-bye to his brother. He and the family noticed that Paul was wearing a shirt with a" Fournier Masonry" logo—the company owned by Larry. Before leaving, the family expressed their gratitude to TPR McNew for his compassion.

When the family returned to the living room, Brandon Fournier said "It's not just that I love Dad so much, I do. It's that I also really like him so much".  

Joyce had remembered to ask TPR McNew to retrieve Paul's iPhone from his pocket. It had been in the water since he accidentally fell into it over 24 hours earlier.  Sharing everyday thoughts, details, and pictures on their iPhones is the Fourniers way of communicating when they are not together. Although his phone was not in a waterproof case, sighs of surprise and relief were expressed when it worked.  Family photos and everyday conversations now pricelessly preserved.

Coty flew home to Florida to tell her daughter, Brielle, about her Grandpa.  Brielle asked her Mom where he was found. Her mom said “Grandpa was found in the water”.  And through this 13-year-old’s tears, she half smiled. She knew he had died in a place that he loved. Joyce looks forward to sharing the memories on Paul’s phone with Brielle and Norah when the whole family reunites in August to honor her and Paul's 50th anniversary.

The Fournier family is so very grateful to Paul for being our Husband, Dad, Grandpa, Brother, Uncle, Brother-in-law, Father-in-law, Friend and fellow Hockey Player. In lieu of flowers, donations, or a memorial, for those who would like to do something for him, they are asking that you reach out to a child, friend, neighbor, teacher, stranger or your own family member by helping them or simply doing something nice for someone. Because that is how Paul lived his life every day. When you do, please picture Paul smiling and experiencing three of the greatest joys of his life: holding Joyce's hand while they ride in the car to explore a new place, playing in the snow with his granddaughters, and watching his son #11 play hockey.

“Thank You, Paul, for loving us. The Circle is not broken. We will always be the Fournier 5 and we will love each other forever."