When islanders surprised Paul Davis with a 90th birthday party they knew not to sing “Happy Birthday”. He hates that song.
But they didn't know he would refuse to blow out the candles. It wasn’t due to the fire danger you might expect.
The key keeper
Paul Davis has been an integral part of so many Lummi Island organizations that he has, at times, literally held the keys to all the community buildings. It's a point of pride for Paul:
"The first week I was here I got a call from the school. Jackie Gaines called me and asked if I would build an ant farm for the kids. And so I started a volunteer full-time career with the school. I got the keys to the school.
Because we have our Community Club meetings at the Grange Hall, I got the Grange Hall keys. I had the church key for some time during some reconstruction project. I was treasurer for the library for 30 some years, so I had a key to the library. And… what else is there on the island that has a lock? I don’t have the school keys anymore, but I have the others pretty much."
Mr. Community Association
Paul has been the steadfast editor of the Tome for over 35 years, collecting news and events, publishing and mailing the newsletter. Funds from subscriptions and advertisements pay for printing and fund Lummi Island Community Association (LICA) grants back to the community. But all of Paul’s efforts are voluntary.
"It’s kind of strange, I have seen probably a hundred board members come and go—for a year, or three years, and disappear. So I’m the one that knows all the traditions and routines. They always come to me and ask how things are done. So I’m kind of Mr. Community Association.
"About 1980 or ’81, I was treasurer of the Community Club [now known as LICA]. The treasurer has to be in close contact with the editor because of the address list for the subscribers and what not. After a few years former editor left and I was the only one standing around. And so I got it by default!"
Getting the Tome
Subscription fee is $6 for Lummi Island addresses, $15 for off-Island, and $6 for email delivery. Canadian addresses are $21 USD.Contact
P.O. Box 163, Lummi Island, WA 98262
Or contact Paul Davis
for information about subscriptions or advertising:
Paul still uses "real Elmer’s glue, cut and paste” to layout the Tome. The ads are actual business cards that Paul pastes in as well. Each edition is five legal-size pages, with each piece of paper in a different color.
"If you don't save the Tome Calendar each month—heaven help you!"
Paul's hot-button issue is needless requests about recycling days and ferry-fueling outages. "Everyone on Lummi Island posts the first page of the Tome on their refrigerator or kitchen bulletin board. Even I keep a copy handy because I can't remember all the stuff I put in there."
Witticisms pepper the pages ("Like most people my age, I'm 30") between important fire department news and helpful articles such as, "18 Steps to Giving a Cat a Pill." The Tome is published monthly, except in August and December.
The Tome even gets around the world. “I have 80 or 90 subscribers off the island, including England, sometimes Africa, a little atoll out in the Pacific, and all over the country."
I’m just a collector of old stuff
Paul maintains the official archive collection for Lummi Island.
“It occurred to me one day that nobody was doing this. So I talked the Community Association into spending a little bit of money for cabinets, and I started collecting stuff and shoving it in there. I’m waiting for a real archivist to come along and organize it!
"I have old original abstracts of several early settlers on the island, that’s good stuff. The Lummi Island Power Association, that’s interesting. I have histories of the various organizations: the school, post office, library, and individual family histories.
"Also in the archive, I have a complete necrology of Lummi Islanders who have lived and died here. I have an obituary file that’s getting kind of thick, it’s about three inches thick now."
Paul Davis Day
In recognition for his tireless service to the community, Whatcom County made August 7 “Paul Davis Day” in 2013. He hasn’t rested on the laurels.
Even on his 90th birthday, Paul spent the afternoon mowing for the Lummi Island Heritage Trust. The Otto Meadow is a project he started about 10 years ago with a push mower, grooming an old cow pasture into a beautifully manicured lawn that the Heritage Trust uses for events.
Now Paul uses a hybrid-mongrel riding mower. It's missing the engine cowl, with a naked Briggs and Stratton engine fitted to the original Yard Machines chassis. His favorite modification is the bright yellow John Deere seat.
C you at 100
And what about the birthday cake? Paul doesn't blow out birthday candles, "I don't believe in blowing germs over the cake."
Always looking out for his neighbors, this guy.
"Instead of 90 candles, which would have caused a conflagration and required our local volunteer Fire Department to visit, it had five Roman numeral candles 'LXXXX'. Of course 'XC' would have been more proper, but there was no 'C' candle available. So we all had some more dessert of chocolate cake and I have enough leftover cake in my freezer to last until my actual birthday next week and beyond. On my 100th, it will be only a 'C' candle."
—Islanders about Paul Davis—
I felt I got to know Paul long before I actually met him. Both from my Aunt Kathy’s praise of all his efforts for the community, and from the monthly island Tome newsletters that she always mailed to me, no matter where in the world the military stationed me. Those newsletters became my connection to home. Looking back, those simple little pages that came each month, became a priceless connection to the one place in the world that mattered to me. I could read about friends and families, and events and news, and feel that I was still a part of the community, and connected, even when I was nowhere near.
I’m not sure if Paul, or anyone can fully understand how important his efforts over all those years of publishing those treasures could be to someone, but I know.Thank you Paul, for all you have consistently done for this community, and the impacts, large and small, that you have made in our lives. I am so glad that I now know you, and that you are one of my island friends, and treasures. Happy 90th!
When Jim and I moved to Lummi Island in 2003, our first introduction to the Island community was through Paul Davis and the Tome. Over the years I have come to appreciate Paul's sense of humor, wealth of knowledge about Island history and deep commitment to community. I have truly enjoyed and appreciated his help and guidance as I have served on the LICA board.
Happy 90th Paul, you inspire me.
Paul does things the “old fashioned way”. I am always constantly amazed by how productive he is doing things that way; many of us think that productivity requires “electronics” doing things “digitally”.
Paul is very proud that he’s the king of Elmer’s Glue—and very rightfully so. He really gets ‘er done!
I never have the chance to beat Paul to a Tome deadline; I always get reminded.
When I moved here full time 14 years ago I kept hearing about an islander named Paul Davis who held the history of the island close to his heart. And like all things we hold dear to our heart he has stayed true to it. After working with Paul on the LICA board and developing our lovely friendship I can now use these words to describe Paul:
Generous. Neutral. Approachable. Dependable. Consistent.
A dear friend indeed.
The Brits have a saying when a person is faithfully committed and reliable: "Like the Rock of Gibraltar". Paul is this Island’s Rock of Gibraltar.
What is your secret Paul? You are redefining 90! You are amazing in so many ways! With your encyclopedic memory, the physical energy and stamina of a 60 year old, philanthropic heart, and unfailing good humor, you truly are remarkable.
We are proud to proclaim you our Lummi Island treasure.