Remembering Paul Pederson

Our friend, Paul Pederson, who volunteered school teacher and dorm parent years ago, passed away on Saturday, May 10. He was a wonderful man who gave the Boys School students his all. You we can’t begin to repay your kindness, Paul. We thank you.

Here are a few words from a few students that Paul taught:

Bobby Antalek, Jr, DVS Class of 2003, tells us:

Paul Pederson was a champion in education. As a teacher, he possessed exceptional skill in connecting with young minds, then keeping them engaged through kindness, patience, healthy exploration and a witty sense of humor. He was my friend and mentor, and I am especially grateful for the time I shared with him.

I actually met Paul in Berkeley, where we both attended weekly lectures and meditation classes. He also helped as an organizer and storyteller for a Buddhist youth group. I was only in elementary school at that time, but I often listened to his insightful contributions to various philosophical dialogue and observed his diligence as an educator. He quickly became a role model.

Eventually, we grew closer once I started to attend the boys school and he started to help in the school residence halls. It was quite comforting having a familiar face around while attending boarding school away from family. And, while in the dorms, he helped me tremendously. He inspired me to read and write, taught me the importance of expanding my vocabulary, and he introduced me to NPR. He also regularly drove me to Mendocino College where I had taken several evening classes, including piano (which he and Mr. Chen had strongly encouraged).

But, perhaps my favorite memory of Paul was when we spent a summer evening cleaning up the boys school, in preparation for the new term. During our work, we discovered some old records in the school library. One of them happened to be Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles. We both got excited by this discovery, and we quickly shut the doors and played the record on full blast. We sang some of our favorite tracks at the top of our lungs, still cleaning, of course. Paul never let us off the hook that easy. But, he knew how to make work fun. I can still hear the melody of With a Little Help From My Friends echoing every time I walk through the halls of the Boys School. I thank Paul for these awesome memories and the incredible stories he shared of Master Hua. 

Thanks for the incredible friendship and support over the years, Paul. I am forever grateful.

Jeff Lin, DVS Class of 2001, notes:

Paul Pederson, was a kind, genuine person. When he was with you, you felt a true connection, the kind of connection like when you have not seen your best friend in years or a parents deep love for their children. He was my teacher for elementary and middle school. He always had a special chi around him and how he inspired others through his positive energy. Something I did not realizes but his instilled his spirit in me, something I always carry around with me and pass on his spirit to others around me.

Charlie Chen, DVS Class of 2003, reflects:

Mr. Pederson was my favorite childhood teacher. I still remember that he got me my first bike. Growing up without my dad around, he was a kind, loving, and generous father figure to so many of us at the boy’s school.

In high school, I had the privilege of being under his care again when he came back as a dorm teacher. His can do attitude and leading by example with his actions continues to inspire me throughout my life. His calm confidence has instilled in me courage to face my challenges head on as they come up.

Charlie Chen

Tony Nguyen, DVS Class of 93, writes:

Mr. Paul Pederson was a kind, gentle, and caring person to many of us who had the opportunity to have him as a teacher, a mentor, a dorm caretaker, and a friend. The number of years that we were sheltered under the same Dharma roof, I can only recall of his contributions to many of us students as sincere, and to some extent, selfless. The reason I say “to some extent”, is due to an incident that takes place during our weeklong hiking/camping trip in the Sierras that would strengthen our bond.

It happened on a hot late afternoon when we reached a lake from a long hike that took us all morning and into late afternoon. The exhaustion from the heat and the long hike made the lake even more refreshing. While we were resting and waiting for the rest of the group to arrive, Joel McGarvey, one of our guardians who happened to be a well trained lifeguard, decided to call us out on a participation with him to a swim across the lake, and not be wasting opportunity and time gazing at the water. Initially Paul and I hesitated. We told Joe we didn’t think that we have enough energy left to be able to do that. Joe responded that’s nonsense. The refreshment of the water will reinvigorate us the moment we take a dive into it, he reasoned. Paul and I looked at each other with some doubt. Yet somehow that made sense. So we told Joe that we would trail right behind him. Joe immediately dove into the lake and started swimming. I was still hesitating. Before I could think thrice, Joe was almost 20 feet into the lake. I didn’t want to be too far behind him and dove into the lake. Joe was right. Indeed that first splash was refreshing. A few seconds later I could hear a splash behind me. I was in a comfort zone. Ahead of me is Joe. Not too far behind me is Paul. I felt fairly safe and protected. Half way into the lake my legs started to cramp up. But I kept going. Moments later both of my legs gave up on me. Joe was too far ahead for me to reach out to him. Paul wasn’t too far behind me. I could count on him. When Paul caught up, he told me sorry but he was about to experience the same episode as I was. So with all of his might, he swam as fast as he could, and left me in the deep. I stayed afloat as long as I could while moving slowly to shore with just my arms. Before my arms were about to fail on me too, Joe swam out and saved me. Had Paul not saved himself and left me off to fend my own life, one of his attributes would have been completely selfless (I’m kidding of course). But he made the right decision, if he hadn’t done what he did, both of us would have drowned together, and Joe would definitely be given a real test of his lifeguard skills. This event, though traumatic, sealed our friendship because only we knew how frightening it was. It also allowed us to appreciate life and everyone else around us more.

During the years that Mr Pederson devoted his life to teaching or watching over us, he did it to the best of his knowledge and capability. He committed a hundred percent. He did not hold anything back, nor expected anything in return. Although he did ask me to cut his hair. That became almost one of the normal routines in our life on campus for sometimes.

Of course now looking back now, that was probably the least I could do for him considering how much he’s done for me and all of us. He was always around when needed. He gave all of us full attention and most of his time. In fact too much of his time. Especially at times when we just wanted to sleep in regardless of breakfast and classes. He was always up early, knocking on our doors, and making sure we don’t let loose of our discipline for scheduling and punctuality. But of course, due to his kind and gentle nature, and the fact that some of us knew how to take advantage of his good nature, it was not always easy for him at times. But Mr Pederson was patience and persistence. To that effect, he helped many of us including myself to become better students, better people.

Tony (on the left) w/ Paul and other Boys School students.

Stan Shoptaugh shares:

My first contact with Paul Pederson was when Marty led the Boys School on a week-long backpacking trip to Hoover Wilderness to the northeast of Yosemite National Park. We made this trek during the last days of August, 1991. Paul was almost always the last one to break camp in the morning. Obviously, he wasn’t really the last, as I was still there watching to make sure that we left nothing behind. Of interest to me was that Paul was usually the first to arrive at our designated new campsite in the late afternoon. He was probably the most physically fit of any of the adults. Paul also embodied the true spirit of  frugality.  He had a real knack for making due with what was at hand. In the wilderness this is a very useful trait. The day after we left the trailhead one of the screws fell out of his eyeglass frames. This was the screw that held together the left temple that hinged to the front of the frame. The screw was lost and so Paul improvised with adhesive tape. But as the days on the trail wore on the adhesive tape lost its stickiness due to perspiration. Keep in mind we were hiking from Leavitt Meadows Trailhead at 7,130 feet elevation to the top of Hawks Beak Peak at 11,143 feet. When the adhesive tape had to be abandoned Paul picked up a pine needle and was able to effectively use that for the lost screw.

Over the last ten years Paul, using his “family & friends” employee discount at Apple was able to save many of us countless thousands of dollars on our purchases. He advised us and helped us to set up our electronic devices and then would assist us in maintaining them. Most generous with his time he was the quintessential available man.

I always enjoyed listening to music with Paul. I would be excited about some new musical discovery and eager to share it. Paul would come over and we would listen to it together. He never failed to have something profound to say about the new piece. One time we drove a few of the students from the Boys School to Davies Hall in S.F. to hear a performance of Saint Saens Organ Symphony. It was a shared thrilling experience.

A few days ago I had a renewed appreciation for the fullness of Paul’s life when gathering together photos for the slideshow shown at his memorial service.

I will miss Paul.

Stan Shoptaugh and Paul Pederson

Victor Lee, DVS Student 1989 to 1993, recalls:

I’m most grateful to Paul for his patience as he tried to teach us Latin. Definitely not an easy language to learn, however it has helped me tremendously in the medical field, learning and understanding medical terminologies.

Another thing I will never forget is our back packing trip in the mountains. That time together is one of the most special time with Paul and all our teachers, who are like our parents, and with our friends, who are like our brothers. I don’t have specific memories of my personal interactions with him during that trip, but I will never forget that that was one of the most special teenage memories of my time.

Victor Lee

Sherwin Lim, DVS Class of ’95, writes:

Mr. Paul Pederson was soft-spoken, low-key. I didn’t think he would stay long at the school. We were boisterous and rowdy. We had a lot of turnovers in our school.

Anyways, I was proven wrong. Mr. Pederson became an integral part of the school and CTTB community. As a kindergarten instructor, he made an impact in the lives of the kids he taught. He was patient and believed kids could do no wrong.

My most memorable time was our high school camping trip through the Sierra Mountains. I remember mentioning it to him years after my graduation that we should do the trip again.

Now he has made the trip to “that undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveller returns. ” Safe travels Mr. Pederson.

Sherwin Lim, DVBS Class of ’95
Paul Pederson

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