By Annette Hinkle
After Paul Giaccio died suddenly and unexpectedly on November 19, 2018, at the age of 43, his mother, part-time Southampton resident Adrienne Falzon, channeled her grief into “Live Like Paul,” a book that details her son’s life. During the writing process, she learned just how many people Paul had influenced in his lifetime. On Wednesday, November 17, at 1 p.m., Falzon will discuss her book in a Zoom talk sponsored by Rogers Memorial Library in Southampton.
Q: Where did Paul live and what was his profession?
Upon graduating Georgia Tech, Paul remained in Atlanta, Georgia, where he started many businesses, first as an investment advisor. He was a math genius and loved numbers. He then went on to start an ATM business which grew to 600 ATM machines throughout Georgia, New York and Florida. He also invested in rental properties. He was quite an entrepreneur and loved working.
Q: It also sounds like Paul helped people whenever he could. Can you share some insight into that side of his personality?
Paul was known for his enormous circle of friends and how he helped them. So many people told me they felt they were Paul’s “best friend” by the way he made them feel. He was honest and trustworthy and had a solid, calming presence about him.
Q: Did you always know of Paul’s effect on others or was that something you learned about only after he had died?
I was aware of Paul’s reputation all through his early years, but I didn’t know all that he was doing until after his passing when I became apprised of his continuous generosities by those affected later on in his life. I was contacted by literally a couple hundred unknown individuals who needed to reach out and tell me how Paul affected them. Many of these are in my book. I am still receiving anecdotes since my book was published.
One event he did tell me about was when he helped his friend with MS achieve his dream of climbing a Colorado mountain. Paul was so excited to be part of this endeavor. I was also aware of his opening his home to anyone who needed a place to stay while they “regrouped.” He never asked for anything in return for doing this. Paul was the ultimate giver. He mentored many people to start their own business. His joy came from seeing people happy and successful.
Q: Did Paul spend time here in Southampton?
Paul came to Southampton every summer and the timing worked out whereby most of his [three] brothers would be here too. For sure, my oldest son Frank, his wife Erin, and their two children would be here. Paul was extremely close to his niece and nephew, Olivia and Frankie, having no children of his own. So having that quality time in Southampton with them holds many fine memories. The entire time was spent at Cooper’s Beach, with Paul constantly playing beach games with them. After a full day at the beach, they would play basketball at the local Southampton court. He never seemed to get tired.
Q: How did writing “Live Like Paul” help you process your grief?
Writing my book was the most gratifying experience. I describe the circumstances initiating my writing as I was literally “forced “ to by constant nudges in my brain. I finally gave in and started while in California where I had all the information I would need. It was a huge undertaking mainly because I had to retrieve all of the materials from storage boxes. Luckily I saved every piece of documentation from when Paul was born — as I did for all four sons — including diaries, notebooks, school records. It was like a life review, not only for Paul, but for me as well and was extremely emotional. Once I had everything I needed, I packed it all up in a suitcase and came to Southampton. Then the actual writing process began.
Q: So you wrote the book here in Southampton. How did being here serve as inspiration?
Completely obsessed, I wrote for 12 hours a day. The words just flowed. Much was written right at Cooper’s Beach, where I felt Paul’s presence, sitting where we all had our beach chairs. He was right there with me, I know.
I had many meltdowns, believe me. Perusing his amazing life in written accounts as well as photos, while comforting, also made me sad. “Why did this have to happen?” which is what I am sure every parent says after losing a child. Those thoughts and frustrations led me to research areas that I had no idea would become a main part of the book, along with what was initially to be just his biography. And, those additions would become monumental and instrumental in not only my healing, but others’ as well, as my readers have shared .
Q: Paul died around Thanksgiving in 2018 due to an adverse medical reaction. It’s been three years. As you approach the anniversary, how has your grief transformed?
It’s hard to believe that nearly three years have passed since that devastating phone call from Atlanta. Paul would surely not be coming to California for Thanksgiving. So much has taken place in keeping Paul’s legacy alive, beginning immediately upon his death. His friends went into high gear wasting no time planning events in his honor, to “live like Paul.” This is probably how they dealt with losing their dear friend. It was an easy decision in giving my book its title because of those early days of celebration. Tee shirts, sweatshirts, hats, wrist bands with “Live Like Paul” written on them went into immediate production. People wore these all over the world. When asked what they meant, Paul’s story was told — just be kind to everyone you meet .
Q: How do Paul’s friends continue to celebrate his memory?
Each year, this huge volunteer committee plans Pauliepalooza, a festival in Paul’s honor. Pauliepalooza 2021, was held in September on a 30-acre farm in Cumming, Georgia. People came from everywhere to attend. It was a weekend of constant activities for families. There was nonstop music entertainment, food, drinks, farm animals, organized children’s activities. On stage, friends would go to the microphone to remind all present the importance of reaching out in kindness as Paul did his whole life. So, this seems to be my mission as well. This all gave me purpose in seeing that good can be done in spite of such a loss. I’m so grateful to have this opportunity.I have also learned to be grateful if grief comes sneaking in. I stop and remind myself how fortunate I am to have had my son for 43 years and I’m proud for his contribution to humanity. Paul won’t be forgotten. But, more importantly, the value and importance of kindness, shown as how it affects others so immensely, will truly last forever.
Q: What do you hope readers will take from the book?
Although “Live Like Paul” was originally meant to be a biography on my son, it took on a life of its own, including chapters I had no intention of writing. Perhaps Paul led me to explore those topics not only for my own healing, but for a larger audience. The responses received so far show this to be true. It’s my hope that this book brings peace and enlightenment to all who need it, whether it’s for loss of a child, loved one, or just plain troubling, confusing thoughts — and, of course, the understanding of the power of kindness shown to all.
Adrienne Falzon’s Zoom talk about “Live Like Paul” will be hosted by Rogers Memorial Library on Wednesday, November 17, at 1 p.m. To register, visit rogersmemorial.librarycalendar.com.