Humble Pauszek became an outdoors legend
Tributes began pouring in last weekend from area residents as well as the Western New York hunting and fishing community as word spread regarding the death of Gene Pauszek. For 34 years, the legendary outdoorsman of northern Chautauqua County put his heart and soul into a labor of love in writing the biweekly Sportsman’s Journal, which was published Thursday and weekends in the OBSERVER.
Like no one else, Pauszek documented the area tournaments, the various hunting seasons and regularly highlighted the organizations that are committed wildlife conservation. How lucky we all have been to be touched by his writing, photos and love for the lake.
Pauszek died in his Dunkirk home surrounded by family on April 1.
“For the people who didn’t get to know Gene, I wish you would have. You missed out,” wrote Jim Steel, vice president of the Eastern Lake Erie Charter Boat Association. “He cared about everything and everyone in our fishing community family, his family and pretty much everyone. I had great conversations with him about fishing, fishing reports, tournaments, hunting and everything and nothing.”
For 34 years, Pauszek would show up at the OBSERVER each Wednesday and Saturday evening to file his column for the sports section. His traditional ways of writing and note-taking meant he was constantly being challenged by the computer.
During his visits, Pauszek would share the highlights of his week with the newsroom. Whether he was out in a boat, home with the family or attending his granddaughter’s bowling match, his humble attitude brought plenty of laughs and joy to the office and the staff members around him.
“Mr. Pauszek was a sweet, soft-spoken gentleman,” wrote Erica (Hammond) Carlson, a former editor at the OBSERVER. “And, wow, did that man love to write. For years I sat across from him in the Dunkirk OBSERVER newsroom as he worked on his column in the evenings and he always, always was so kind to us. My heart goes out to his loved ones. He absolutely was an icon.”
Before the newspaper’s first fishing show at the Clarion Hotel Marina & Conference Center in 2018, Pauszek was spotlighted as one of the notable area individuals who would be at the event. Not only was he tickled about being considered a celebrity, he also was overwhelmed by the response.
On that April Saturday afternoon, he was surprised to learn that he was one of the main attractions. Of the hundreds who attended, many stopped by to say hi and tell him how much they enjoyed his writing.
When Pauszek took on something — for this newspaper or in the community — it was done with a mission to better our region. Years ago, he began a “Take A Kid Fishing” program that took place on the first Saturday in June and was highlighted annually in these pages. He understood that getting youth involved with our greatest asset in Lake Erie would keep them coming back — and appreciating the resource.
“Gene was one of the kindest, nicest, people I ever worked with,” said OBSERVER staff member M.J. Stafford. “His column can’t be replicated. He had countless contacts in the hunting and fishing world and long years of personal experience in it. Added to that was a big work ethic, and a deep love of educating and informing people. He topped it all off with his own unique, folksy writing style. It’s no wonder so many people loved his column for so long.”
Pauszek’s son, Steve, mentioned during Wednesday’s funeral some of his dad’s other interests that included being a fierce pinochle player at a number of the local clubs while always keeping his commitment to his wife, Mary, his family and those who were closest to him. “He never put himself first,” his son said.
His modest attitude, never truly grasping how important he was through the years, brought him numerous friendships and connections. The hunting and fishing community of Western New York as well as this region will never see another like him.
John D’Agostino is the editor of the OBSERVER, The Post-Journal and Times Observer in Warren, Pa. Send comments to email@example.com or call 716-366-3000, ext. 253.