NEGAUNEE, MI. - Robert James Paquette, 87, of 201 Queen Road, Negaunee, died Sunday morning, January 19, 2014 at the Mather Nursing Center surrounded by his loving family and under the care of U.P. Home Health and Hospice.
Bob was born March 22, 1926 in Quinnesec to Medolph and Josephine (Fabry) Paquette and graduated from Kingsford High School, Class of 1944, where he played four years of football for the Flivvers. During his high school years, he also played organized baseball, hockey, and enjoyed "Pine Mountain" ski jumping. His favorite sports, however, were always fishing, canoeing, hunting, and trapping.
Immediately upon graduating from high school, he enlisted in the United States Navy at the age of 17 to serve his country as a Navy Hospital Corpsman. He once said, "When I was going off to war, I decided that I was going to save lives, not take them." After completing boot camp and his medical training at Great Lakes Training Center in Illinois, he transferred to Camp Pendleton, California to train as a Navy Corpsman/Medic for the Navy and Marines in the amphibious landing forces. Among the many who trained alongside him were several Navaho Code Talkers, who he became friends with.
After several weeks of training with the Marines Corp at Camp Pendleton, he was assigned to the Amphibious Assault ship APA199 USS Magoffin where he served out the remainder of the war in the Pacific/Asiatic Campaign. On Easter Sunday morning, April 1, 1945, he "hit the beach" at Okinawa as a Hospital Corpsman 1st/class with the Marine 2nd Division when the combined U.S Marine, Army and Naval forces invaded the island. While saving the lives of wounded Marines and Okinawa civilians on the battlefield, he narrowly survived enemy sniper fire. On April6, he was ordered back to his ship, only to take part in the historic and relentless kamikaze attacks that occurred that same day. His ship was attacked, but their gunning crews shot down two kamikaze planes just before they crashed into the ship. On board the Magoffin, he continued to assist in treating wounded sailors who were injured in the Japanese aerial attack.
On the 7th day of the battle, his ship was ordered to leave for San Francisco to load up with more troops and equipment. Escorting the Magoffin from Okinawa was the famed battle cruiser USS Indianapolis, which had been hit and damaged during the kamikaze attacks.
At the conclusion of the war, he remained with his ship transporting thousands of troops back stateside from the Pacific theater. During that time, he continued his service to his country by assisting returning battle weary Marines.
In May of 1946, after traveling over 90,000 miles, he was Honorably Discharged from the Navy as a Pharmacists Mate 2nd/class. That same month, he returned home to his family in Kingsford, vowing never ever again to travel far from the nearest trout stream. He made good on that vow.
Throughout his life, he spoke very little of his war time experiences, once saying, "It was something that thousands of us just did, and that was just the way it was." In his later years, he opened up more often, at times crying when he thought back, with his unselfish heart, about the young wounded Marines he worked so hard to save so many years ago on the island of Okinawa.
After his military service to his country, Bob worked numerous jobs in the Kingsford/Iron Mountain area-most notably being the manager of Bert Harvey's Sporting Goods--before moving to the Negaunee/Ishpeming area in 1950.
Shortly before moving to the iron country of Marquette County, he married the love of his life, Patricia Ohmen from Iron Mountain. Together, they raised a family of five wonderful children while living in Negaunee.
Bob proudly worked as an underground iron ore miner at the Mather B mine, but after being laid-off in 1959, he used his artistic talents to become a sign painter. At one time, most every store and business in the Negaunee area was identified by a sign or lettering that he designed and hand painted. He worked for many years at K.I Sawyer Air Force Base as the paint shop foreman, finally retiring from Civil Service at age 62 so that he could spend the rest of his life happily gardening, fishing, hunting, golfing, smelling the flowers, and, most of all, being with his family and his dog.
Mr. Paquette was a member of St. Paul Catholic Church, Negaunee and a life member of V.A. Romo Post #3165, Negaunee V.F.W. His interests and successes throughout his life were many. He was an accomplished and national award winning photographer. He was an avid and "pretty darn good" golfer being a long-time member of the Wawonowin Country Club. He had a passion and a knack for throwing horseshoes, and won numerous tournaments and Ishpeming-Negaunee Men's Horseshoe League championships. Bob was also the Upper Peninsula Men's Class A Division Horseshoe Champion for several years running.
Bob was probably best known throughout his life for his fishing, hunting and trapping skills. He was truly "a good man in the woods." In fact, he was the best. His legendary instincts in the bush grew from his pride in his French-Canadian and Native American ancestry. He was directly descended from some the very first French voyageurs who paddled into the Great Lakes region back in the 17th century. And of course, several of his French fur-trading Great Grandfathers married his Anishinaabe Great Grandmothers. And like his father before him, Bob was proud to be Great Lakes Metisa true native of this land that he so loved. His incredible talents as a gardener were also well known, and enjoyed, by many. And of course, there was his wine-making. Again, this was something he excelled at. Many, many wobbly people shared the benefits of that particular talent.
More than everything else in his life, Bob enjoyed and loved his wife Patricia and the "very large" family that resulted from their love. He was always happiest when the whole Paquette clan of kids, grand kids, and great grand kids descended upon him while he was either at camp or at home. He was the family Elder who always unselfishly shared his vast knowledge and his many talents with everyone. He was a teacher, and his lessons were always about life and how to be a better person.
To everyone who knew him, he was a model of what every person should strive to be-a generous, kind, loving person-a good human being. Heck, he was the best.
Surviving are his loving wife of 64 years, Patricia (Ohmen) Paquette; 2 sons: David (Michelle Collick) Paquette and James (Karen) Paquette, both of Negaunee; 2 daughters: Karen Dishaw of Negaunee and Barbara Sundberg of Ishpeming; 2 sisters: Donna (Thomas) Brynick of Kingsford and Sandra Laitala of Wisconsin; 14 grandchildren: Tracy (Rob) Miller, Terri Tammelin, Sara Paquette, Nicole (Terry) Hyttinen, Jill Paquette, Jodi (Jeff) Niemi, Keri (Aaron) Smith, Katie Paquette, Michael Paquette, Emily Dishaw, Joseph Dishaw, Joslyn (Gordon) Todd, Jennifer (Kenneth) Heikkila and Nadine Paquette; and 20 great-grandchildren.
Bob was preceded in death by his parents, his son Raymond E. Paquette in 2004 and an infant sister.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 5:00 pm on Wednesday, January 22nd at St. Paul Catholic Church with Monsignor Peter Oberto officiating. The family will greet relatives and friends from 2:00 pm until the time of mass at 5:00 pm at the church on Wednesday, and also at a reception following the services at the Negaunee V.F.W. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be directed to U.P. Home Health and Hospice or the Negaunee V.F.W. in Bob's memory.
Bob's family would like to express their sincere and heartfelt gratitude to everyone who helped during this tough time, especially the caring wonderful people from U.P. Home Health & Hospice and Dr. Wayne Carlson. Condolences may be expressed online at koskeyfuneralhome.com.