Paul Battaglia is a
person who has affected so many people and whose life and personality
have so many facets, that he cannot be described in just a few words.
I will begin with the first time I remember seeing him, just because
it is funny and it has stayed so vividly in my memory for about nine
It was the fall of
1992, and I had just started my freshman year at Regis High School.
One day, at lunchtime, I walked into the cafeteria and saw some people
I knew who were in class 1C. I went over to them and sat down. There
was a kid standing up, talking to the group. He had brown hair and
glasses, and he was playing with the straps of his bookbag as he
spoke. He was explaining to the group how to steal cable television.
"You go to Radio Shack and get a splitter! Then you climb the
telephone pole—my grandpa does it! It’s easy!" Those are the
first words I remember Paul saying, in that distinctive voice of his.
We laughed. And there were so many times after that when we laughed.
He had a method and a manner such that you couldn’t help laughing at
his jokes. Suffice it to say that there are few people with a sense of
humor like his.
Paul also had a way
with people. You could call it charm or charisma, but I feel that
would be understating it. Everyone knew him—everyone. Everyone knew
at least his name and his face, and they probably also knew his voice.
In high school it took only a short time for Paul to make himself a
local celebrity of sorts, and I imagine it was similar in college. But
Paul wasn’t Mr. Popular or the coolest kid around; he was just Paul,
a "fat computer-dork" as he once referred to himself. And
that was the beauty of it. There’s an expression I’ve been known
to use when I meet someone who manages to set himself apart from
everyone else, and it’s perfect for Paul: "They broke the mold
when they made that guy."
I have many memories of
Paul, and somehow all of them are happy. I’d like to share a few,
because the two of us always got a kick out of sitting around and
talking about the stuff we did, and I know that it’s through these
stories that he’d like to be remembered.
My friendship with Paul
began in our sophomore year of high school, when I approached him
about writing a humor column for The Owl, which is the Regis
newspaper. The title of the column was "Owl Droppings." Paul
was the obvious choice for such a job; nearly everyone regarded him as
the funniest kid in our class. Essentially, for the Owl Droppings
column, Paul would make up ridiculous fake stories about faculty and
students and pass it off as news or gossip.
Paul handed in his
first Owl Droppings column, and he would later say that it wasn’t
his best work. At the time, though, we thought it was hilarious. Maybe
you had to be a sophomore. Anyway, I gave it to our moderator Mr.
Crowe, and he read it and gave it back. His comment was simply,
"Paul is uncouth." Paul always thought that was a great
criticism. If we could only remember what was in the column that was
I have a sample
paragraph here from "Owl Droppings," dated October 1994. Try
to imagine Paul reading it, and it will be even funnier.
"Fr. Kuntz, my pal
and former headmaster, has been spotted around the building recently.
Fr. Kuntz is not scheduled to leave for Nigeria until late October,
but his journey may be delayed because of a rough summer over there.
He has been seen pawing at the windows of Regis regularly. When he was
invited inside the school, Fr. Kuntz darted right for his old office
and started raving about ‘little green moon men.’ A Jesuit source
says Fr. Kuntz was removed and would be observed until his scheduled
departure for Nigeria in late October. This writer, who only reports
true and accurate stories, found out that Fr. Kuntz will be observed
in a 4 by 4-foot cell in the basement of the Jesuit residence. It was
also discovered that Fr. Bender has been taunting Fr. Kuntz with food
for his own sick amusement."
So through The Owl,
our friendship grew. By the end of junior year we were running the
paper together, and we let Dave Russo and Tom Noone and Carlos
Capellán help out here and there. In his graduation speech, Dan Habib
referred to "The Owl, with Paul Battaglia’s wit and BJ
Manning’s wisdom." I liked the idea that you had to take the
two of us together. We were a team; we played the foil to one another
and everything balanced out.
Paul never ceased to
impress me, and it was always on so many levels. He had such an
enviable relationship with his family; to watch him with anyone in his
family, especially his mother Elaine, or his brother Eric, or his
grandfather Jerry, was to witness love, and it was never short of
amazing. At Binghamton, his leadership at WHRW was unprecedented; his
ideas for the station ingenious; his enthusiasm incomparable. There
were a number of Sunday evenings in college when I would be sitting
home reading and the phone would ring. I’d answer, and I’d hear
Paul say, "Beej, you’re on the air. Don’t curse!"
There were two things
that Paul did recently that impressed me tremendously. The first was
something that Paul wrote about in his application for business
school, which he recently completed. He said that after working for
about fifteen years in the business world, he planned to retire and
begin a second career, most likely as a high school teacher. It was
not something I’d ever heard him talk about, but it did not surprise
me at all. It actually made a lot of sense. I saw it as a mark of his
character. Paul always wanted to give back, and what better way than
The second thing was
that for the past few months, he and Aline have been working for New
York Cares on Saturday mornings, volunteering at different places
around the city. This did surprise me a little; most of the volunteer
work that Paul had done before this was probably more in the
extracurricular vein of, for example, the Binghamton radio station. It
had always been work where he could take a leadership role. Giving up
Saturday mornings to work for New York Cares was something different.
It was another form of Paul’s desire to give back to his city, and
it’s proof that Paul had such a big heart.
I have been looking at
the pictures that Seth put on the website, and you can see how happy
Paul always was. He is smiling in every picture. He truly loved life,
and it had such a positive effect on those around him. I found
something he wrote on the old version of his website that I thought
captured much of his personality. It has his great self-deprecating
humor, and he writes about himself in the third person. These are his
own words, mind you:
"During his Jesuit
education, Paul realized how much more efficiently the world would run
if he were in charge of it. While he tried to conquer the entire
world, he failed, managing only to attract a small group of friends
who overlooked his Napoleonic tendencies and saw deep inside him, to
the little Yuppie crying to be freed. With the help of these friends,
he was able to encourage the world’s embracing of preppies. Through
the school’s newspaper, The Owl, Paul preached to the masses,
made fun of those different from him, and changed the way Regis looked
at the world. The necessary parallel to draw is that Regis was, in
many respects, a microcosm. Paul changed Regis and is now preparing to
change the entire world. You keep watching. It’ll happen. ‘My high
school friends are probably the best friends a guy could have,’
Battaglia added, ‘I don’t know why they don’t kill me. I love
you guys.’ See, he has a heart."
Now, Paul is both right
and wrong here. He’s right because he definitely has a heart,
reluctant as he is to admit it, and his heart was always growing. He’s
wrong because he already did change the world. Everyone sitting here
is a testament to that.
In closing, I want to
say something to Paul on behalf of everyone here. Paul, you are our
brother, son, grandson, cousin, nephew, lover, leader, writer, disc
jockey, WHRW general manager, features editor, class fund chairman,
computer dork, e-business consultant, wise ass, and friend. You made
us laugh and smile, and your departure makes us cry. I’m sure you
know this, but I’ll remind you anyway: we miss you terribly, and we’ll
never forget the difference you made in all of our lives.
Brian J. Manning
October 6, 2001