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South Whidbey bids a final farewell to Paul Schell

George Henny marches Thursday in Langley with hundreds of others to honor the late Paul Schell. - Ben Watanabe / The Record
George Henny marches Thursday in Langley with hundreds of others to honor the late Paul Schell.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

When you live the life that Paul Schell did, people have a lot of stories and memories to share. 

During Thursday’s three-hour reception and memorial in Langley for Schell, who died from heart surgery complications July 27 at the age of 76, people remembered a visionary, a politician, an avid learner, a landscaper, a country boy, a city planner, a husband and a father.

The afternoon of Aug. 14 was dedicated to Schell, who owned several Langley buildings with Pam Schell, his wife of 51 years, and left an indelible mark on the Village by the Sea. A 45-minute procession kicked things off with a spectacle that many people said Schell would have enjoyed.

“Paul would love it,” said Kathie Raff, a Seattle and Whidbey resident who knew him for 40 years, after walking in the procession and holding an “Elect Paul Schell for mayor” sign from one of his campaigns to lead the City of Seattle decades ago.

The line of people looped from the Inn at Langley (one of the Schells’ ventures) on First Street, just north of Anthes Avenue up to Second Street, back to Anthes, and up First Street once more. From atop the Second Street hill near Park Street, the horde of people seemed to occupy nearly half the stretch from Anthes to Cascade avenues. Following behind the police motorcade was a color guard from Seattle, members of the South Whidbey High School jazz band and band director Chris Harshman, a red Miata convertible carrying his ashes, and a throng of hundreds of people who wished to walk in the wake of a man they considered to be a mentor, friend and prankster.

During the memorial held at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts a nonprofit he helped found, fund and lead Matt Costello spoke of Schell’s humor, sense of justice and loyalty. Costello, who is the chef and general manager of the Inn at Langley, told a story of being called early one morning by Schell, frantically telling him a dead whale washed up on the beach below the inn.

“It was April Fools’ Day,” Costello said, prompting hearty laughter at the memorial that had as many group chuckles as it did whimpers.

Later, Costello shared a story of his early days working for the Schells. They walked into the lobby and overheard an irate customer through the phone of one of the receptionists. After a while, Schell walked over, took the receiver and told the customer that he did not want the man’s business and would only reconsider if an apology was offered.

His brother John Schlachtenhaufen  Schell’s birth name  shared stories of growing up together in Pomeroy, Iowa. Schlachtenhaufen told of how Schell loved reading books, so much so that he once left an uncapped light on and fell asleep, only to awake when it had burned into his feather pillow. He also spoke of the time that his curiosity to learn what people were up to got his armed seared by a blowtorch. In his brother’s words, Schell had an “untiring intellect, a burning curiosity,” was a builder and could be impulsive, or in their family’s words, “imPaulsive.”

Another family member, Schell’s nephew Steffen Schlachtenhaufen, spoke of the Schells’ hospitality, both as business owners and people.

“You will not find more generous or gracious hosts,” he said, adding that Schell taught him that everyone can be engaged in improving their community.

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