Paul Nardoni woke up singing every morning of his life.
Even with terminal Hodgkin's disease, even when he could barely breathe on his own, Paul sang. He sang loud. He sang the songs of Santana. He sang with the abandon of a merry child without a care in
Paul was an executive chef for Holland America Cruise Lines. He graduated from Gill St. Bemard's in Bernardsville, NJ and Susquehanna University before choosing to attend the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N. Y. He worked in some of the finest restaurants in California and Hawaii before landing a position with the cruise line. An aficionado of fine food and travel, Paul would be the first person to say he had a good life.
He was working on the Wind Star cruise ship when he became ill and had to return home to New Jersey. Paul was diagnosed with Hodgkin's in the fall of 1996.
Paul had mobs of friends. He was warm, charming, prankish, romantic, hilarious - and sometimes a little bit irreverent. He wanted to know the details of everyone's life, of the people and places and things that were important to them. Paul formed a unique relationship with every person he came in contact with and he wanted everyone to learn about him, what he thought, how he felt, what his dreams are.
Paul understood the value of time. He spent the years between his diagnosis and his death helping his family and friends understand it too. We have learned well from him. Now, we try to live in the moment. We don't just show up - we're there to participate. We count the days, and we work hard to make the days count. We love with all our hearts. Paul accepted nothing less, and he deserves nothing less. His spirit is embodied in the Paul R. Nardoni Foundation.
You'll notice that the Foundation's logo includes the statement "Providing Comfort and Aid To Cancer Patients and their Families." This simple sentence speaks directly to a primary and ongoing concern that Paul had throughout his illness.
During his stays in the hospital, Paul witnessed first hand the unparalleled care and attention that is given to a cancer patient. He noticed that their families, including his own, often spent the night sleeping in an uncomfortable chair or a makeshift bed. He discovered that there were no diversions for patients, or their families, during the long and sometimes arduous chemotherapy sessions. Paul longed to remedy those circumstances - for his own family and for the families of all patients. It is this oft-expressed desire - his for our comfort, ours for his cure - that gave the Foundation its mission.
As his disease progressed, Paul was able to stay active with the help of chemotherapy and immunotherapy. Despite frequent hospitalizations, he took a job as sales director for the Somerset Patriots baseball team. When that took too much of his energy, he worked at a Honda dealership as Internet sales manager. Paul never gave up. And he made sure we never did either.
The cancer, however, proved to be a mighty adversary. Only when doctors told him there was nothing left that they could do, did Paul change his battle plan.
It was no longer about his survival. It became about the survival of his family and friends. In the few weeks he had left, Paul spent time with his loved ones, helping us come to terms with losing him. He was the most courageous person we know. On Tuesday morning, April 17, 2001, secure in the belief that he had said everything he needed to say to the people who loved him most, Paul Nardoni died.
He never gave up. He just decided the battle was finally over.
Paul's wife Ellen summed up his philosophy perfectly. She said, "I learned from Paul that you can't spend every day worrying about what would happen. He never lived as if he had cancer. He didn't waste a minute."
We wish you could have known Paul as we did, alive and vibrant and full of spirit. There are no words to describe the sound of his voice, his hearty laugh, the way he filled the room, how he lived life to the fullest, and how to the very end of his life, he helped others. Our hope is that through the Foundation, you will come to know him for his generosity of spirit, for that is surely his legacy.
A special thanks to a friend of the Foundation, Robin Fisher, for this lovely write-up about Paul.