When Paul Roberts was just 17 years old, he asked his mother if he could leave high school to join the Marines.
Both of Paul’s older siblings had already joined the World War II efforts overseas, and he was eager to serve. The Roberts family soon became the first Three Star family in their area of Ship Bottom, New Jersey. To his disappointment, the war had ended before Paul finished boot camp.
Paul was deployed to Nagasaki, Japan, after the bomb was dropped. When he retired from the service, he worked for the United States Postal Service for most of his life, living in the same little house his parents had owned since the early 1900s.
This man has survived a lot in his 94 years, including a battle with COVID-19 in 2021.
“I always thought I had lived a charmed life,” he said. “I must’ve had a guardian angel.”
Paul’s angel must have been hard at work one evening in March when a fire started in the bedroom of his Ship Bottom home. Paul had just taken a shower and was shaving when he saw smoke curling underneath the bathroom door. When he smelled smoke, he knew he was in trouble, so he got onto the floor and crawled out a back entrance. He then ran across the street to his neighbor and friend Rich Obermayer’s house to get help.
Erin Obermayer lives with her father, who is a retired firefighter. She described the night of the fire and the chaos that ensued.
“He ran across the street to my house and banged on the window,” she wrote. “I called 911, ran over, and saw the fire in the bedroom, but it was too late to put out the fire. We waited for the police and fire department to arrive, and the only thing that was salvaged were some photo albums. They were his only belongings that were saved.”
Paul confirmed that sadly, the fire took everything that he had.
“That’s hard,” he said.
Erin and Paul became close during the pandemic. She says she often tells her friends about her “94-year-old friend,” and she loves the way he always remains cheerful even in the face of adversity.
“Paul is one of the most positive people we have ever and will ever meet.” Erin explained. “He says, ‘Well, I wake up every morning, I can either be happy or not. I might as well decide to be happy.’ Still, after having his house destroyed, he has a smile on his face. Paul is a truly humble, independent, wonderful person, but for the first time in his life, he needs the help and support of those around him.”
Erin and Rich decided to start a GoFundMe to ask their community for help. No one could have predicted the way Paul’s life of service and positivity would inspire thousands of donations from strangers all over the country! So far they’ve raised over $172,500 in donations.
“It’s so amazing reading the comments,” Rich said, noting that many donations came from Marines and their families.
Paul is also overwhelmed by the response from total strangers who care about his wellbeing. He has found a small apartment nearby and plans to stay in the area, but he’s not sure if he will rebuild the house or not. No matter what happens, you can count on this veteran to put a positive spin on anything that comes his way!
Share this story to thank Paul for his service and wish him well as he recovers from the fire.
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