[Isidor Paiwonsky was no great patron of Island
Resources, but his passing is certainly a
milepost at the end of the US Virgin Islands
carefree growth era of the mid-20th century.
It was always fun to read Herman Wouk's comic
novel "Don't Stop the Carnival," and try to
figure which characteristics of characters were
based on businessman Isidor Paiewonsky or his
brother, politician-Governor Ralph Paiewonsky.
Isidor's decades of history tales in the VI Daily
News did a lot to keep alive a level of interest
in the old days in the USVI.
bruce potter ]
from the VI Source http://www.onepaper.com/stthomasvi/?p=1105679625
>Historian, Businessman Isidor Paiewonsky Dead at 95
>by Molly Morris
> Dec. 6, 2004 - Isidor Paiewonsky,
>historian, author, publisher, businessman, the
>premier chronicler of Virgin Islands history,
>died at the Roy L. Schneider Hospital at noon
>Monday. He was 95.
> Though the territory lost one of its most
>noted voices, Paiewonsky's legacy will live on
>in his writings, in his commitment to
>beautification and conservation, and in the
>memories of the countless lives he touched. Many
>of those he touched shared recollections Monday,
>some sadly, some with a little humor, but all
>with the deep respect that comes from knowing
>one who has been called "a giant."
> He lived his life with his wife Charlotte
>in their home on Blackbeard's Hill, where they
>raised their family. At his 90th birthday
>celebration in 1999, Paiewonsky said the house,
>richly steeped in history, was at least twice as
>old as himself. The house is just a short walk
>from his birthplace on Synagogue Hill --
>literally down one hill and up the other.
> Lifelong friend Dr. Alfred Heath, who had
>attended Paiewonsky Monday, shared some
>memories. Heath said he has known Paiewonsky
>since his father worked as a pharmacist in
>Paiewonsky' pharmacy when Heath was a child.
> Speaking softly and carefully, Heath
>thought back to those days. "From the time I was
>a kid, I've always learned something from him.
>He was brilliant. He could discuss anything, and
>when you leave him, you've always learned
>something. He had a way of teaching. He was
> "The Virgin Islands has lost a nobleman,
>one of great stature. He was a historian, an
>author, but most of all he was a friend of my
>family. My mom and dad worked for his family ...
>we were very close."
> Heath was feeling the effects of his
>friend's demise a few short hours before. He had
>just come from visiting Charlotte, he said. "I
>speak from the heart, for someone I've known
>almost all my life. I was almost part of the
>family. They always treated you like a human
>being. They have always been liberal in their
>views toward all races and creeds. I lost my
>mother 18 months ago, so it's like déjà vu, like
>a resurfacing of emotions."
> He concluded, "He had so much to give. He
>wrote those columns in the newspaper in a way
>that was understandable to most people. He wrote
>them week after week, so dedicated, and they
>were so accurate. He did his research well. I
>been given copies of books he has written that
>he has signed personally. He was the V. I.
>Historian - he will be missed greatly."
> Preservationist Edith Woods, who herself
>has chronicled much of the history of St. Thomas
>buildings, said Monday, "We have lost a good
>person. I wish he had put all those articles in
>a book. I kept asking him why he didn't do that,
>and he said he was working on it." Woods writes
>columns on the island's architectural history in
>The V.I. Daily News.
> "I have saved copies of all his articles
>over the years, from the 70's. They have helped
>me in my research. He has been very generous to
>me. I'm so sorry to hear the news."
> Woods has early memories of Paiewonsky. "He
>was a good friend of my father's, Percy de
>Jongh. They went to convent school together in
>what's now the Education Department building in
> She said her most vivid memory of
>Paiewonsky was walking on the West Indian Co.
>dock. "I used to go there years ago to walk with
>my husband. We would always see him there. He
>would walk the dock several times, stop to chat
>and then keep walking. He must have been in his
> "I had a lot of respect for him," Woods said. "I am sad."
> The community's political leaders were
>anxious to extend condolences. One after
>another, they came tumbling out all afternoon.
>Gov. Charles W. Turnbull and acting governor Lt.
>Gov. Vargrave Richards issued statements lauding
>Paiewonsky's business acumen as well as his more
> Turnbull said, "We sadly mourn the passing
>of one of the giants of the 20th century who
>played a great role in the emergence of the
>Virgin Islands into a major tourist
>destination." He called Paiewonsky, "A
>humanitarian businessman who used his energies
>and resources to better the lives of the people
>of the territory and promote regional commerce."
> Richards said, "Paiewonsky had a passionate
>love for the Virgin Islands and its people. He
>believed that strong steps should be taken to
>safeguard the open spaces of the territory
>through balanced growth and careful
>preservation." One of those efforts succeeded in
>stopping the building of an airport on concrete
>pads over the lagoon on the east end of St.
> Both Turnbull and Richards extended condolences to the family.
> Sen. Roosevelt David, caught by surprise
>with the news of Paiwonsky's death, said "I
>really want to extend my condolences to his
>family. I know very well of his invaluable
>contribution to the Virgin Islands in just about
>any field imaginable. It's very hard to match.
> "There is no question that he was the
>leading V. I. historian. He had a wealth of
>knowledge. The V. I. is certainly a better place
>because he was here for a time."
> Sen. Lorraine Berry said in a statement
>late Monday afternoon, "Paiewonsky could
>honestly be called a 'Renaissance man,' so
>diverse were his talents as a historian, a poet,
>a businessman, a horticulturist and, most of
>all, as a humanitarian of the highest order."
> Berry pointed out the present site of the
>Cyril E. King Airport came about through
>Paiewonsky's "tireless endeavors which were
>continually blocked by . . . those who would
>place it at the East End Lagoon."
> She said "Paiewonsky left his mark on the
>lives of many; not only lovers of history and
>poetry, but by the many young people whom he
>coached, trained and mentored in his commercial
> One of those young people was attorney Paul
>Hoffman. "Isidor and Charlotte befriended my
>mother and father in the late 1940s. We have
>been almost as close as family. Beside all his
>historical and business interests, he was always
>interested in kids.
> "He was one of the greatest storytellers of
>all time. When he started to weave one of his
>tales, by the end you were tightly wrapped up in
>the fabric of his characters. And it wasn't just
>the characters of historical people, it was the
>characters he actually knew.. The characters of
>his own youth were more fascinating."
> Hoffman declined to name just who those
>characters were, but he shed some light on
>Paiewonsky's own youth. "He would tell about
>having beetle races in the sand on the Synagogue
>floor and carving ancient petroglyphs at Botany
>Bay. He'll be missed by lot of people, not just
>the historians, but people who just realized how
>great he was."
> Hoffman said, "You can only feel great
>sorrow, not only for his daughter, but for his
>grandchildren, and most especially, for
> Services for Paiewonsky will be held
>Thursday at 3 p.m. at the Hebrew Congregation of
>St. Thomas Synagogue on Crystal Gade in
>Charlotte Amalie, according to a family member.
>The Paiewonsky family will issue a statement
>Tuesday morning with details.
> Paiewonsky is survived by his wife,
>Charlotte; daughter, Avna Cassinelli; grandsons
>Filippo and Sebastiano Cassinelli and other
>family members to be named Tuesday. He was
>predeceased earlier this year by his son Michael.
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