Summit County mourns loss of Paul Hage, a true humanitarian |

Summit County mourns loss of Paul Hage, a true humanitarian

For those who knew him well, thinking of Paul Alan Hage without mention of a deep commitment to his family, church and the community is incomprehensible, and they will perhaps best remember the tall, slender man for the kindness and compassion he showed throughout every facet of his life.

Hage died unexpectedly on Nov. 9 while vacationing with his wife of 48 years, Deborah, in Barcelona, Spain. He was 70 years old.

His death came as a huge shock because, in many ways, Paul Hage was fit. He worked out regularly and was an avid athlete who enjoyed skiing, hiking and biking. He was also a regular at the seven-day, 400-plus mile endurance bike race Ride the Rockies, and Paul Hage had completed his 13th run just last year.

"It's devastating," said Hage's son, Matt. "(My mom) was not ready. Nobody was. This wasn't a long goodbye. We didn't have time to get our affairs in order and say goodbye properly."

The sudden nature of his death was tough. Still, throughout more than three decades here, Paul Hage served the community in a magnitude of capacities, including as a regional manager at the Public Service Company, where he worked from the time he moved to the High Country until his retirement, and through his involvement with the Summit Lake Dillon Optimist Club, his church and the community dinners he and his wife are famous for helping serve at the Elks Lodge in Silverthorne.

And that's just to name a few of Paul Hage's efforts to help others.

"He's just one of the nicest people I've known," said Bill Wallace, a family friend and former high school math teacher who remembers having some of the Hages' nine children in his class.

Throughout their lives, Paul and Deb Hage made a habit of opening their home to children in need, both through the formal adoption process and with foster care.

In fact, Paul Hage's efforts to improve the lives of children — not just here, but across the globe — is one piece of his life that family friend and former co-worker Mike Smith said made his old boss an irreplaceable member of the community.

"I can't emphasize this enough," said Smith, who knew Hage as a boss, an Optimist and as a friend. "Paul was a truly fine, caring person. He is a great loss to the Summit County community. He's a great loss to the children of the Summit County community, and he's a great loss to his family."

Smith described Hage as the kind of boss every worker wants — supportive, understanding and thoughtful — while another man, Loren Vawser, who used to work underneath Hage at the Public Service Company, said he couldn't agree more.

Vawser started with the power provider a few years before Hage took a job there, and he too became good friends with the boss that everyone loved.

"Paul was very supportive of all the departments, as far as helping them get the equipment and personnel they needed," Vawser recalled.

But more important, he said, "Paul understood what we are up against in Summit County with the weather conditions, terrain and short construction season."

Travel also played a major role in Hage's life, and he was big on family adventures, said Matt Hage, who's now a commercial airline pilot and works with the Summit County Rescue Group, both of which he directly attributes to his father's influence.

"I mean, oh my gosh," Matt said running down a long list of some of family excursions, a lineup that includes places like all of the major national parks, Canada and Mexico.

"One of the things my dad was really able to instill in all of his children is everybody has a different view," Matt said relaying one of lessons he learned traveling with his father, often in a family RV.

Matt added that he never went without growing up. He might have wanted a BMW he didn't get, but he always had access to a car, and another important lifelong lesson his father instilled in him was to "live without limits and believe you can do anything," while at the same time keeping a keen eye fixed on being of service to others.

Even more than that, Matt remembers his father carving out time to spend with each child individually, and that's something he'll never forget, especially considering there were nine of them.

And it's likely Paul Hage's big, extended family that best exemplifies his service to others. After college graduation, Paul Hage married his high school sweetheart, Deb, and they raised the nine children together, including two biological children and seven who were adopted.

The Hages welcomed the birth their first child, a daughter whom they named Rebecca, in 1973. After that, the Hage clan just kept growing, and Paul and Deb completed their first adoption with Alejandro, who came by way of Peru in 1975.

About a year later, Deb gave birth to Matt, but the couple wasn't even close to done because, over the coming years, she and Paul would adopt six more children — including daughter Rachel from Peru in 1978 and sons Ruben and Robert from Texas in 1982.

After moving to Silverthorne in 1984, the adoptions continued with the family adding two more sons, Jamie and Jesse, and daughter Amber to the mix in 1986. Five years later, Brandon joined the crew, and that's not counting any of the foster children that Deb and Paul Hage welcomed into their home during that time, Matt added.

After his family, Hage was perhaps most devoted to his church. Matt said that his parents were both raised Lutheran, and after landing in Summit County, the first thing Paul and Deb Hage had to do was find a church to make their own.

They gravitated quickly to Lord of the Mountains Lutheran Church, Matt said, and that's a decision that former pastor of the church Joe Holub, who led the congregation from 2008-13, was happy the Hages made.

Paul Hage was one of the first people Holub met on a more-than-casual basis, the pastor said, and throughout his time with the church, Hage served on numerous committees and boards. Additionally, Holub came to know Hage as one of the people he could always count on.

"People like Paul, I call 'bedrock,'" Holub said, explaining these are the individuals who are "so solid and committed" to the church that simply looking at them gives the pastor feelings of assurance and comfort. "The guy was just bedrock."

Amy Smits, who also met the Hages through the church said Paul Hage "was that guy that, anytime someone new came to church, he was always quick to welcome them and make them feel comfortable."

Hage could always remember people, Smits said, and went out of his way to be friendly and nice.

"That's just who he was," she said. "Everyone was welcome at his home. He was that guy who would do anything for you. … Paul was always there. He is going to be missed by so many people."

A memorial service is set for 11 a.m. Saturday at Lord of the Mountains Lutheran Church in Dillon. In lieu of flowers, people can make donations to the Paul Hage Memorial Fund at Lord of the Mountains Church by mailing them to P.O. Box 1059, 56 Highway 6, Dillon, CO 80435, with the money going to help pay for a labyrinth garden in his memory.

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