Peace Corps was his life-long dream
Cambridge, MA. Long-time Cambridge resident, Dr. Paul S. Blum, 65, died suddenly of a heart attack on Saturday, September 8, 2012 in Zambia, Africa. Paul arrived in Zambia in July 2012 and was participating in the three-month pre-service training through which every Peace Corps volunteer prepares for service. In October, he would have been sworn in to begin his two-year commitment in Kafumbwe, Eastern Province, training community health workers. Joining the Peace Corps had been a dream ever since his retired aunt and uncle were Peace Corps volunteers in Botswana in the 1970s.
Paul had arrived in Kafumbwe the morning of September 8 and had greeted his new community in Nyanja, their local language. Of primary importance to Paul was understanding the Zambian culture, and in turn providing an understanding of the U.S. to the people in his host country and community.
In a press release issued September 10, Peace Corps Director Aaron S. Williams said: “The entire Peace Corps community mourns the loss of such a committed trainee whose wealth of experience in the medical and teaching fields was a great asset to the Peace Corps mission. Our thoughts are with Paul’s family, friends and community,”
On September 13, Paul’s colleagues in Zambia held a Memorial Service attended by all the trainees, U.S. Ambassador Mark Storella, Chief Chamuka (in whose Chiefdom Paul had been training), Paul’s host family from Chipembi, U.S. Mission Directors and staff, and Peace Corps Zambia staff. “We celebrated Paul’s life and said goodbye to an amazingly kind, compassionate and well-loved man, who touched us all,” said Lauren Mamane, Acting Country Director for Peace Corps Zambia. “I am awed by his courage to join Peace Corps and fulfill what was a long-time dream… To see Paul’s ability to give up all the comforts of home, to come live in a mud hut in Africa after his amazing career in the U.S. was humbling. His ability to just hang out with a group of 20 somethings and fit right in says so much about his character (not to mention his sense of humor).”
Paul was born on January 13, 1947, and grew up in Mount Vernon, New York. After attending Mt. Vernon High School, he went on to obtain his Bachelor’s Degree in Zoology and his Doctorate in Physiology/ Neurophysiology from University of Vermont, and completed his post-doctoral work at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.
During a successful professional life of 40 years, he worked as a researcher, teacher, administrator and consultant. Having taught at Columbia University and Jefferson Medical College, he held positions in drug discovery, clinical research and regulatory affairs in the pharmaceutical/biotech industries: Johnson and Johnson (McNeil Pharmaceutical, Janssen Research Foundation), Sepracor, Inc., Genzyme Corp., Diatide, and Acambis where, as Director of Clinical Operations, he worked on a biodefense vaccine project following 9/11. After serving as Senior Medical Director at Neurogen, he was Principal of PSB Pharmaceutical Consulting in Cambridge, MA. and a volunteer with CASPAR, a substance abuse recovery program.
Paul also had a great love for the sea and for sailing. On his 30-foot sailboat Blue Note, he cruised and raced in among the Boston Harbor Islands and along the New England coastline. He was a skier, avid reader of history, photographer, outdoors person, fixer of things; he sewed his own sails and canvas work on Blue Note, was a great chef, and loved museums and music. Before leaving for Zambia, he filled his iPod with everything from Bob Marley to Bach. More than anything, Paul was a family man and loved spending time with his two cherished granddaughters.
Paul is survived by his daughter, Lori Reine, son-in-law Richard Reine, granddaughters Claudia and Alicia Reine, all of Bedford, NH; brother David Blum of New Buffalo, MI; and his devoted companion of 14 years, Betsy Caney of Cambridge, MA. He was predeceased by his parents Leonard and Ethel (Siegel) Blum.