Yesterday I turned on the television only to be greeted by news that left me crying and staring at the screen. Paul Newman had died.
Even though I never met him, his death has taken a chunk of my heart away. Our world is much sadder and emptier without him. His modesty, humor, compassion, and unparalleled ethics are something we can all learn from.
Paul Newman could have easily gotten by on just his looks, but he didn’t. He mastered his craft and whatever other endeavor he chose. He could have easily been boastful and arrogant, but he wasn’t. Instead, he used his intelligence and human insight to help others and do the best he could with what he had.
My personal story involves seeing him at Daytona International Speedway during a historic car race. I wasn’t expecting to see him at this event. I had heard that he could be there. So here’s what happened:
The day started out pouring rain. Usually my camera was out and ready for anything, but at this moment I had put it in its carrying case to keep it dry. As I made my way into the race track, everyone and everything was drenched. It didn’t seem to matter, though. That’s the allure of Daytona. Plus, it was that time of year in Florida. 🙂 Anyways, I’m just checking out the cars and simply looking around.
Suddenly, BOOM! Paul Newman walks right in front of me! He wasn’t five feet from me. Well…I scramble to pull my camera out of its bag faster than I had moved in awhile. When I finally got a hold of my camera, all I could get was a picture of his backside just walking away down the stretch. Still, I knew it was Paul Newman. I didn’t care if anyone else looking at the picture could tell it or not.
Of course, the media was surrounding him no matter where he went. He was asked for autographs by fans, but did not give any. He simply said that he was on vacation. While others may not have liked this, I admired it.
Finally, the rain let up and the drivers were getting into their cars. There was a crowd of people around this one car, so I scooted closer. I asked the person next to me what was going on. “THAT’S PAUL NEWMAN!” is what I heard. “Cool,” I said in return. My camera was ready, as were all the cameras nearby. 🙂 (We were standing in what is known as the cold pit area, about 20-30 feet from the cars.)
Paul Newman saw the crowd and turned his back to us. He obviously was uncomfortable with all the hoopla. People slowly started to leave, disappointed that he was not getting into the car nor acknowledging them. When one of the last people left, I asked them why they were leaving. “He’s not going to turn around. He’s taking too long,” I heard. “He’s gotta turn around to get into the car, give him time,” I replied as the person was walking away.
As this person left, I moved towards the front. I was in the front viewing area! So, in just a few minutes, Mr. Newman turned around and got into his car. When he was settled in, I got the picture of my life. He looked directly at me. 🙂 (At least I can believe he was looking at me and not in disdain at my camera.)
Just the thrill of seeing Paul Newman in real life was enough for me. I got a chance to walk the same grounds as someone who I had admired my entire life. He is a true American and worldwide legend. He had scruples, undying devotion, and immense class that I could only hope to have. His sense of humor shined through, along with his captivating blue eyes. And now he’s gone.
I am grateful and feel very blessed for the opportunity to have experienced his living legend. My heart and sympathy goes out to everyone who knew him personally.
Saddened does not adequately describe how I feel at the death of Paul Newman – our beloved Paul Newman.
Filed under: personal essay | Tagged: Daytona, Daytona International Speedway, death of Paul Newman, living legend, media, Paul Newman, tribute | Leave a comment »