Obituary of Paul Killion
PAUL DAVID KILLION
Paul David Killion took the “train” to heaven on September 19, 2018 to be with his Savior and Lord after fighting Parkinson's disease his last few years. Paul was born March 10, 1938 to Eugene “Gene” and Margaret Killion in Everett, WA. Paul remembered it was during those Everett years that his interest in steam engines first blossomed. Gene, whose own father Bernard had been an engineer on steam engine trains out of Longview, WA, often took young Paul down to the railroad to watch the trains. When Gene and Margaret’s marriage ended in 1944, Margaret took Paul back to Bellingham to be closer to her roots and parents, Carl and Cecelia McCoy. But Paul’s passion for trains never went away and he proudly displayed his pictures of himself, his dad, his grandfather, and any of a number of steam locomotives he could tell you about.
Paul also inherited his mother’s gift for music. She had a beautiful singing voice and played both piano and organ in churches wherever she lived. Paul was indeed musically talented as well, but his tastes tended to drums, swing, bebop and the Dixieland-based energy of Spike Jones and his City Slickers.* His inclination for contemporary music with a livelier beat produced some tension with the older tastes of his immediate forebears.
A third influence in Paul’s early years was the Christian worldview that he both heard and embraced from family, friends, and church. While he struggled in middle years he came back to his Christian convictions in his final years. Thank you, Immanuel Bible Church in Bellingham.
It was in Bellingham that Paul received his elementary and high school education. During this time his music talents started to blossom. He both played in the Bellingham High School band and in his own neighborhood band. Immediately after graduation from high school, Paul entered the US Army in June 1956, where he played drums in the military band. After 6 months of basic training in California he was released from active duty to continue in the Reserves until June 1964. But during those few California months he watched musician Gene Krupa for the first time.
After living several places including Portland and San Francisco, Paul moved to Seattle in 1959, where he made many friends and came into his own musically. He worked with Gareth Johnson’s fun-loving, Dixie-flavored sing-along band at the famous Blue Banjo in Pioneer Square. As well, he worked with other local jazz notables including tenor saxophonist Freddie Greenwell, bandleader John Holte, and Doug Bright, better known as Dixieland Doug by the Seattle jazz community. And Paul both worked with and traveled with Grammy-winning vocalist Diane Schuur. Their travels took them around the country and to Holland. In the late seventies he formed a band called the Kalamity Kats. In 1976 he joined the Army National Guard, and again he played in the band. With the 133rd Army National Guard Band, he had a variety of opportunities traveling short-term to Costa Rica, Hawaii, the Philippines, etc. until he retired in 1989. In the eighties he led a sizzling jam session at Seattle’s former Midget Tavern. And there were performances at Giorgio’s in the University District, at the Scarlet Tree, etc. As well as playing, he collected tapes and records of others—in great abundance!
Paul was intimately familiar with the subtle nuances of every classic style from Dixieland to Bop to Western Swing. He was both a team player and a brilliant technician. When the time was right he was not shy about proving it. His trademark arrangement of “Caravan” featured a breathtaking solo characterized by intricately syncopated interaction of drums and symbols that never lost the tempo. His press roll – a difficult pressure technique that keeps the sticks in subtle but constant motion against the snare-drum head – was seamlessly smooth. At the height of the solo, he would often leave the stage to wander the room, tapping as dexterously as ever on anything that was solid enough to make a sound. Through it all he never missed a beat. One impressed observer remembers seeing Paul “take off in the middle of a band performance with a drum solo, his sticks flying across a collection of plates, cans, bottles, and who knows what with crowd-pleasing rhythms and crescendos that nearly brought the house down.” No doubt this, as well as the more normal use of his drum sticks, earned him the nickname Sticks.
As with many professional evening entertainers, work made family life difficult. After one failed marriage Paul married his sweetheart, Elizabeth Payne. They had twin sons in 1973, Lee and Loren, and subsequently Lee blessed Paul with three grandchildren.
Paul returned to the "City of Subdued Excitement," aka Bellingham, WA where he joined a local jazz band and played at the Wild Buffalo, Skylarks Restaurant, Bellingham Senior Center, and of course he played in the Bellingham High School Alumni Band. He made his residence in the Catherine May Apartments, and finally in the Rosewood Villa Assisted Living Community.
In 2005 in Bellingham, Paul started dating Lorraine Griggs-Knemeyer. They met at a senior center where he was very popular with the ladies, but he chose her, and they travelled back and forth to East Wenatchee where she lived. Paul played at the Wenatchee and Leavenworth senior homes when he was in the area. They were to marry July 4th, 2011 but she unexpectedly passed away first. By then Paul was family to Lorraine’s extended family, so he was adopted as Grandpa Paul by the whole tribe: her 5 siblings, 7 kids, and their children. Lorraine’s daughters, and especially Jeannine, were the most wonderful help to Paul during his last years.
Paul had many other friends through the years. For example, during his last few years Gary Erickson would pick Paul up and take him to Bellingham’s Waterfront Tavern for fish and chips; the best in town, they asserted! Thank you to all of Paul’s friends.
At his request, no public funeral service is being held. Paul is being cremated and his ashes buried in the Bellingham, WA Bayview Cemetery near his maternal grandparents whom he loved so much! Good friends are welcome to a graveside service, Oct 12, 2018 at 11:00 am.
Please share your memories and condolences in the online JERNS FUNERAL CHAPEL Guest Book where these memories are being viewed. Donations in Paul’s memory may be made to the charity of your choice.
Credit: *Much of the history and words about Paul’s musical activity come from Heritage Music Review - A Monthly Guide to Early Rock, Blues, Country, Folk, and Traditional Jazz for the Seattle Area, the January 1995 edition.
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