Loving and beloved in life, Emil James Paul has joined his wife Bettie in Heaven to continue their forty richly blessed years here on Earth. He leaves behind godson Sean Hickman and his family; children Cynthia Oliphant (Joe), Donna Mattern (Bill), Karen Lopez (Mark), Craig Brewster (Carol), and Ron Brewster (Laura); also seven grandchildren, fifteen great-grandchildren, and many friends.
The life that Bettie and Emil made together was defined and enriched by their children and their families, to whom they ceaselessly provided unconditional kindness, generosity, and humor – that for them naturally included friends of family and the family of friends.
Emil came into the world during the Great Depression. He was born in New Jersey in 1932 and his life would be shaped and defined by the decision to enlist in the United States Marine Corps upon graduating from high school at age 17 in 1949. Following an honorable discharge in 1953, he moved to Fresno, California, with his first wife.
They adopted Cynthia (Cinde) and Donna, providing their daughters with the happiest of childhoods. After initially working as a milkman for Producers Dairy, in 1961 Emil began a 21-year career with the Fresno Police Department. He started as a patrolman walking a beat on the West Side, then worked as a juvenile, burglary, and homicide detective – attending the F.B.I. Academy and becoming a member of California Homicide Investigators Association, et al. He also served as president of the Fresno Police Officers Association and coached Pop Warner Football.
After putting away his police badge he built on his law enforcement experience by working as a private investigator (primarily in criminal defense) with Bettie as his Girl Friday and Cinde helping while she studied paralegal science. He was recognized as a life member of the California Association of Licensed Investigators but perhaps his most important case was finding as many of his high school classmates as possible so that everyone who could be was invited to their 50th Thomas Jefferson “Tee-Jay” High School class reunion in 1999.
Emil realized a lifelong dream when he and Bettie bought Bass Lake Pines Theatre and added the Showboat Ice Cream Parlor and Arcade next door. “The Great Outdoors” with John Candy and Dan Aykroyd was filmed there. Bass Lake was the center of Emil’s most important roles as husband, father, and grandfather – and he especially enjoyed Christmas when he played Santa Clause for his grandchildren. It was in Bass Lake at Little Church in the Pines where he and Bettie (and later his two daughters) married.
When they were not in Mexico, traveling, or visiting family and friends around the country, Emil and Bettie were active members of Sierra Pines Church, Oakhurst American Legion Post and Auxiliary 110, Oakhurst Elks Lodge #2724, and Bass Lake Lions Club – after which Emil worked to establish Fresno Cal Vet Home American Legion Post 2.
Bettie and Emil’s ultimate vocation was working in real estate at The Land Office in Bass Lake, as members of Yosemite Gateway Board of Realtors. For their sunset years, they moved in 2017 to the Fresno Cal Vet Home where family and friends were frequent visitors. Emil lost Bettie in 2020 when she succumbed to a long battle with Parkinson’s.
In 2021, Emil met his great-granddaughter Harper Phillips shortly after she was born, at a Mattern family reunion arranged by Donna. And he was pleased to meet Cinde’s biological half-sister Leslie Pendleton and her husband Frank – whom he invited to visit him at Cal Vet Home regarding Leslie’s parents Jim and Ann Carlton’s plans to move there. Emil and Jim had looked forward to getting acquainted and being neighbors. But the Marine and the Navy man – both Christians who had served their country in 1952 and 1953, then adopted and raised biological half sisters who became as close as two sisters can be – were not destined to meet in this life, but they surely will in Heaven.
Emil’s children and their families wish to thank everyone who cared for him during his final weeks. Dr. Park at VAMC provided clarity with compassion. At Fresno Cal Vet Home, they will fondly recall: Irwin’s assurance that family and friends who came to see Emil during his hospice were all welcomed; Thomas’ exemplary efforts to ensure Emil’s care upon returning home was flawless; the excellent care given by Veronica and colleagues who had also cared for Bettie (and remembered Emil outside his wife’s window – even in the rain – when he was not allowed to be with her during Covid restrictions); and Uche who shared with Cinde how her father enjoyed hearing stories before bedtime and who was the last person Emil heard speak before going to be with his Lord and Savior, when Uche quietly exclaimed in her warm melodic voice that “God is Good.”
Arrangements are being made by Palm Memorial-Sierra Chapel in Oakhurst. Services will be held Monday, March 21, beginning with a 10 a.m. graveside dedication at Oak Hill Cemetery, after which there will be an 11 a.m. memorial service at Sierra Pines Church, followed by a repast to honor Emil and Bettie.