Paul G. Betit, 73, passed away Monday morning, Nov. 2, 2020, after a brief illness and a short hospital stay at MaineGeneral in Augusta.
The son of Joseph and Jeannette Betit, he was born on Nov. 10, 1946, in Augusta. Growing up in the shadows of the Maine State House, Paul had many friends from the neighborhood that he stayed connected with throughout his life. He attended St. Mary's Grammar School and Cony High School in Augusta before enlisting in the Army. Paul served as an intelligence analyst in the United States Army Security Agency and earned Letters of Commendation for his work while serving tours of duty in South Vietnam and Ethiopia. His military experience would have a lasting impact on his life, including the many life-long friends he made. Following his military service, he graduated from the University of Maine and worked as a general assignment reporter and a sportswriter in Maine for more than 40 years at the Kennebec Journal and then the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram.
He is survived by his wife, Debbie, and son, Chris, of Brunswick, his son, C.J., his wife, Laura, and, grandson, Alex, of Fort Fairfield; his brother, David, of Augusta; his sister, Liz, of Hallowell; his sister-in-law, Sharon Brown, of Brunswick; his brother-in-law, Kendall Brown and his wife Cheryl, of Flint, Michigan; his nephew Jamie and partner Meredith Jensen (Amelia, Brandon and Molly), of Athens, Ohio; and his nieces, Darcee and her husband, Benji Adams (Camden and Eliot), of Farmingdale, Jessica of Gardiner, Brianna Martin of West Gardiner and Hannah Brown-Lopes and her husband Patrick (Pippa), of Richmond, California. He was predeceased by his brother, Eddie Betit.
Services will be private. In lieu of flowers, donations in Paul’s memory may be made to American Diabetes Association, Portland-Auburn Chapter, PO Box 11454, Alexandria, VA, 22312, or to the charity of your choice.
Sorry to bury the lede. Those are the essential facts. But let me tell you a story.
Paul had a gregarious personality, always ready with a story to tell and a laugh to match. It did not matter if you saw him every day or it had been two decades, he picked up where you left off and he had a laugh and a tale for you. He did not go anywhere without running into someone he had met and if you met him in his travels and did not know him, you soon did. He had family and friends far and wide that he kept in regular touch with. He was a people person, loving to hear others’ stories and telling stories in return. Even this past Saturday in the hospital, an old friend who had taken a part-time job at the hospital walked in unexpectedly with his dinner. Stories were traded as they reminisced, and a few other patients likely ended up with cold dinners.
Paul parlayed his love of stories into three crime novels, Phu Bai, Kagnew Station and The Man In The Canal, that follow a U.S. Army CID investigator during the Vietnam War era, and Let Me Tell A Story, a mix of short fiction and memoir. These books were interspersed with autobiographical stories that family and friends had been regaled with over the years. In some instances, it was hard to tell even for family and friends where the true-life story ended and the fiction began…
Paul was also a devoted father and husband. He married a very patient minister’s daughter, who he was wed to for nearly 48 years at the time of his passing. He was always there for his sons, even getting his oldest son into the newspaper business - first filling in under the table for his sports clerks in the Brunswick bureau - and later working side-by-side in the sports department for nearly a decade. While at the Kennebec Journal he helped lead an effort to organize a union for newspaper staff and was a proud member of the Portland Newspaper Guild.
In his retirement years, he enjoyed playing bridge and golf, visiting with his grandson and countless other family and friends, and continuing his lifetime of voracious reading.
Despite his years of writing and military service, Paul always would say the best job he ever had was driving a garbage truck. His father owned J.M. Betit Sani-Van Service in Augusta for years and extended family and friends worked for the business. Stories among his favorites were: the day the load in the back of the truck caught fire and he was told not to stop under any circumstance until he could dump it at the landfill; a wheel on the truck coming off and rolling past the truck out into a field on a steep hill; and the day he backed a truck down a street full of cars and left a little paint on each one of them.
In the end, it was about the stories that make up a lifetime and the laughs. Paul lit up a room with his personality and spirit and he will be sorely missed by his family, friends far and wide and acquaintances he met along the way. “Now, do you remember when…”