Those We Lost: At 79, he'd just finished rebuilding his boat engine when he tested positive for COVID-19. Then he died.
Editor's note: Today we remember the lives of three local men who died from COVID-19. Contact Julia Bergman at email@example.com if you'd like The Day to write about someone you know who also was stricken by the pandemic.
Paul Brockett Sr. got the news shortly after he’d finished rebuilding one of the diesel engines on the Mijoy 747, the last task to ready the charter boat for inspection by the Coast Guard, and on the same day he started planning the 2020 fishing season.
After a checkup at the eye doctor, where he had his temperature taken and found out he had a fever, the 79-year-old Brockett of East Lyme went to get tested for COVID-19.
On April 6, he found out he tested positive for the novel coronavirus. By the end of that week, he became "quite weakened,” his daughter, Mary-Lou Brockett Devine, said.
At one point, he regained some strength and started making plans for "when he was on his feet again," Devine said. A couple of days later, her father had a stroke.
“At first, he thought, 'I’m healthy. I’m busy. I’ll be fine,’” Devine, 58, of Waterford, said in a recent phone interview. “Little by little, it started wearing him down more and more.”
Brockett was admitted to Lawrence + Memorial Hospital on April 16 and spent several days in the intensive care unit. He died on April 29.
In his final days at the hospital, staff put a phone up to Brockett’s ear so his family could talk to him.
“We were able to say what we felt needed to be said, which was quite a blessing,” Devine said.
The family thanked him for the time he gave them and for his incredible loyalty to them. Devine had been trying to convince him to “retire, relax, not work so hard” and apologized she "hadn't convinced him of that."
One of Brockett's last conversations, his obituary says, was about the will to live.
"He noted that although the virus he was fighting might not have an intelligence, it had some drive to survive. While he had planned to win his fight, he admired his ‘foe,’" it says.
Devine said her father’s death was “painfully quick," given how active he was. The hardest part, and she's heard this from others too, is not being able to gather with his family and friends to remember him.
"My father hated to attend funerals but he loved the storytelling after. Everyone in the same room laughing and reminiscing. To not have that, it's making it a little harder for everybody," she said.
Brockett was born Aug. 7, 1940, in West Haven and started working on the Mijoy soon after graduating from high school. The business was then owned by Ernest and Mary Schiller, whose daughter, Gail, Brockett would later marry. Together with her parents, they ran the family business.
"He and my mother fished constantly," Devine said. "The boat would run seven days a week. If they got a day off, they would go fishing together."
After receiving his U.S. Coast Guard captain's license in 1965, Brockett experienced many types of fishing, including daylong party-boat trips and monthlong commercial fishing trips.
He would talk about the times he was out tile fishing and swordfishing in the middle of the ocean in the midst of a storm, stories that were "full of rich detail and always ended with wonder and gratefulness that they had survived," his obituary says.
Brockett was also a skilled machinist and a woodworker, crafting nearly all the fishing weights and jigs for his boat. He loved spending time with his dog, a Bichon named Little Cesar.
After his wife died, Brockett met Margaret "Peg" Paolillo, whom he was with for nearly 20 years. They enjoyed live music and shows and could often be found at The Garde, The Kate or the casinos, his obituary says.
In addition to his daughter, Brockett is survived by his son, Paul V. Brockett Jr. of New London, and by his sister, MaryAnne Hawkes of West Haven.
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