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Tenacity, business fortitude recalled as strengths of former Millbrook Chief Lawrence Paul

MILLBROOK - He wore a headdress made of eagle feathers but he hated to fly. Had it been otherwise, who knows how high Lawrence Paul may have soared.

Dr. Daniel Paul displays a picture of his older brother Lawrence Paul in his native headdress taken from when he was chief of Millbrook First Nation. The former chief died Wednesday night at age 79.

"You know, in the ‘70s he had a dream of seeing retail activity up here on the highway," the former Millbrook chief's eldest son Jack Paul said of his late father, who died Wednesday night. "And he did make that dream come true."

Paul served as the chief of Millbrook First Nation band for 28 years and is credited with bringing economic prosperity to his own community and for improving the lives of First Nations people across the country.

There was a time, however, Jack Paul recalled, when a lot of band chiefs across the country wanted his farther to run for the position of national chief and, to a degree, he may have even considered it.

"I remember him telling me that a national chief one time over breakfast (during a function in Halifax) made a remark. Dad told him, ‘you know, if you don't apologize for your remark, I am going to run against you and I am going to defeat you.' Well, that national chief made an apology for the remark he made. Dad was like that."

Ultimately, however, Jack Paul said his father was too adverse to flying to seriously consider taking on the challenge of the national position and all the travel that would entail.

"He said, ‘frig that, I don't like flying,'" Jack Paul recalled with a chuckle.

Known for being extremely tenacious and stubborn in his pursuit of improving the lot of all First Nation's peoples, and for his intense business acumen, the former chief also waged a life-long battle with his personal nemesis - alcohol.

"It was a monkey on his back that he denied his addiction to it most of his life," his younger brother Dr. Daniel Paul said, while sitting on Paul's front deck early Thursday afternoon.

Sometimes Paul would acknowledge the problem and believe he could control, Daniel Paul said. "But it could never be done. Most of his life he denied his problem."

But after each bout with his demons, the former chief "always managed to pick up the pieces and march on and start moving and shaking again and getting things done, his brother said.

And while Daniel Paul believes that "Lawrence's struggles with alcohol" could have hampered any attempt to seek higher office, had the former chief put his mind to it, there is no telling what might have occurred.

"I think he could have accomplished quite a bit and perhaps in his own way he accomplished more for the First Nation's people in Canada by not being national chief, by being chief of Millbrook and co-chair of the Atlantic Policy Congress and things like this," Daniel Paul said.

"Because what Lawrence accomplished in Nova Scotia with the provincial government and the federal government was groundbreaking, in the sense that it opened doors across the country."

And not only for Millbrook but also for the remaining 500-plus First Nations bands across the country.

"Without his tenacity and willingness to go out front and get things done here, there wouldn't be nothing (in Millbrook)," Daniel Paul said. "He decided it could be done and he wouldn't take no for an answer."

And that is what he believes his older brother should be best remembered for.

"His legacy would be to all First Nations people, simply, if you want something bad enough and desire it, go for it and get it."

Paul was born in Saint John, N.B. in July 1934, the ninth eldest of 14 children and grew up in Indian Brook after moving there as a toddler with his family.

Paul was married three times in his life and came to live in Millbrook because of his marriage to his first wife.

Daniel Paul said one of his fondest memories of his older brother was when they were children and pretending to be soldiers while playing on the Indian Brook reserve during the Second World War, as air force pilots made low-level training runs overhead.

"They were flying almost at the tree tops and Lawrence made a beeline for this one tree and climbed way out to the top of it and the airplane almost came over that tree," Daniel Paul said.

"The tree was swaying back and forth, Lawrence came down," much faster then he went up," he said, laughing at the memory.

And thereafter maintained a life-long disdain for planes.

‘"I hate flying,'" Jack Paul recalled his father saying.

Twitter: @tdnharry

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