NOV 14th. 2023

First of all let me apologize for not handwriting this letter.
But after 50 years of typing on a computer, my penmenship
leaves a lot to be desired. Some people say a typed letter is
somewhat impersonal, but I only want to spare you the agony
of trying to read my handwriting! I assure you this letter
is most heartfelt!

I do hope this finds you in good spirits. I first wanted to let
you know how much I appreciated you sending me Paul's
funeral card and his obit from the newspaper. It was so ironic
that the date of your letter was exactly 3 years of his death.

So after you and I talked, I got back from my September visit
to Michigan and took some time to process the reality that my
childhood friend was gone. I started going through the many
pictures I knew I had of us and gathered them together into a
single folder. It brought back many great memories of the
good times we shared. After that I gathered together all the
recordings we made and placed them into a another folder.
When I got to our recording of the Beatle song "Two Of Us",
It seemed a fitting song to commemorate our friendship.
It was then I got the idea to put together a video slide show
which I will include on a thumb drive and send along with
this letter.

And so after reviewing all the pictures and songs, I suddenly
realized that my time with Paul seems to have faded off after
I moved away to Georgia in the fall of 1980. And my guess is
that was possibly about the time his life with you began.
So its like you and I represent 2 sides of the Paul Gajda coin.
It seemed like we were always together up until the late 70s.
I deeply regret that I didnt try to keep more in touch with him
in those later years. But my life was in Georgia and raising
my 3 children, as was yours in Michigan raising your 2 children.

In light of all of this, I thought I would share a few stories
that I was privileged to share with him. I hope you find some
enjoyment by reading some of these.

Paul was my very first friend. As you know he lived behind
me on Dover. His back yard touched my back yard. As soon
as we were big enough to climb that 4 foot fence, our
hopping the fence friendship began. I'd say by that time,
we were around 4 or 5 years old. Paul's mom sometimes didnt
like us climbing the fence because she had a garden back there
and was afraid that we would trample all over her rhubarb
plants. To get around that problem, We would go the other
way and walk thru Mr Keet's back yard. He never seemed
to mind.

We were shocked to find out that because my birthday was
Oct-55 and the cutoff back then was December 1st, I ended
up being one grade ahead of Paul even though we were only
2 months apart. I remember watching him sadly having to see
me get on the bus that first day of kindergarden while he had
to stay behind. But by the next year, we were able to walk to
school together. I would walk around to his house and we'd
walk that mile to Vandenburg Elementry. You might laugh,
but we literally did walk a mile to school in the snow. Just
not up hill both ways as the old joke goes!

As we got older during our days at Pierce Junior High, which
is now called Middle School, we would take trips to Westland
mall. We would ride the DSR bus that would pick us up at the
corner of Joy Road and Royal Grand. It seems amazing that a
couple of 14 and 15 year olds would ride a public bus by
themselves. This would never happen today. One of our
favorite parts of the journey was to take our picture at the
photobooth. It was very cool because neither of us owned a
camera then, and for 25 cents we could get a fun and
sometimes goofy picture of us.

In 1969, we bought matching bikes from the same bike shop
on Ford Road and Beech-Daly. We were so proud of our new
blue schwinn 5-speeds! During the summer of 72, Paul, Fred
and I did a lot of riding and started taking a specific path
through the various neighborhoods which we affectionately
referred to as "The Route". It was approximately a 5 mile circle
that would end up back by Pauls house on Dover. We did this at
least 3-4 times a day. It was so much fun because we would
stop and chat with various friends (Girls) who lived along the
path. Fred Smith had this ability to make a loud whistle which
would alert everyone we were passing through. They would
come running out to greet us! Part of the route also took us
by the Dairy Whip on Plymouth Road between Beech and
Inkster. Not sure if it is still there. So many times on our
last run through the route we would stop at "The Whip".

Then one day, Paul got this crazy idea for us to take a 90 mile
ride to his uncle's house who lived in Lansing. Fred decided
not to go which left just Paul and I. We were both nervous
and excited about the idea to attempt such a journey. The
plan was to ride up Beech-Daly to Grand River and take that
all the way to Lansing. We would leave on a Friday and come
back on Sunday. Since we didnt know how long it would take
us, we got up at 5am and started the ride. It turned out it
only took us 6 hours to make the trip.

The funniest part was that we had great weather all the way
until we were about 5 miles from their house. All of a sudden
the bottom fell out of the sky and it started pouring down rain
like there was no tomorrow. Since there was no place to hide,
we just kept going. Then about a half mile from their house,
the rain suddenly stopped and on their street it had not rained
at all. So when Paul's aunt came to the door, she was a bit
confused as she looked out and saw it was clear, dry and
sunny, while Paul and I both looked like we took a mud bath
along the way. It was a great trip which we were both proud
of making.

Paul was there for me when my mother died. It was so great
to have him there. We talked about when his dad died about
a year or so earlier. And now how we both had the loss of
a parent in common. Mr Gajda's death was more unexpected
than my mothers. I told him about how I spoke with his dad
a few days before he died. He was coming home from his
new job at the post office. I mentioned that I noticed he lost
some weight and was looking good. His dad told me he never
felt better. Paul understandibly took it hard. He held up in
his basement for days and wouldnt come out. Finally after
about 3 days I knocked on the door and his mother let me in.
Paul told me how glad he was that I was there to help him get
back out into the world. Just like he was there for me now.

To compliment the trip we made to his Uncles's house, I had
a brother who lived in Raleigh North Carolina. So we made
plans to drive down there for Easter break. I invited my
friend Al Kasten and Paul invited Gerry Olinik. So the 4
of us made the trip. Back then there was no GPS, only paper
maps which we used to find our way through the mountains
to get there. It turned out that this became the greatest
trip ever! The weather was perfect, 80 degree sunny blue
skies every day. We stayed for 5 days and upon our return,
we arrived home to 40 degrees and cloudy skies. It was most
significant for me because it was this trip that convinced
me that one day I would move south which I did 6 years later.

In 1976, I purchased some expensive recording equipment
which we were very excited to work with. By May-77, We
made several music recordings with Paul on bass guitar.
It was because of Paul's great ear for music that made
him the greatest Bass player Ive ever known. His input
to our recordings always made them great!

On May 20th, Paul invited Gerry Olinik (OLINK) to come
over and jam. This was the first time Gerry had seen our
recording equipment. We had a great time trying to get Gerry
to sing and goof around with us. We only recorded a fraction
of what we actually performed that day. I wish I would have
hit the record button more often during that afternoon.
I invited Al Kasten to come by, which also made this a nice
little reunion of our 1974 North Carolina trip.

This memory is one that I am glad that you were a part of.
I didnt make many visits back to Michigan over the years,
but in 2008, I was very much looking forward to visiting
with Paul. I coincidently had made contact with one of our
other fellow guitar player friends Paul Witkowski. We always
referred to him as PAULC because his middle initial was
Paul C. Witkowski. And it was a way to differentiate
between the two Pauls. The 3 of us played guitar together
briefly during our high school days and he was on several of
our early recordings. Knowing that I was planning to see
PaulG later that day, I got the idea of inviting PaulC to
come with me and surprise him. It was interesting to find
out that PaulC lived only a few miles apart from you.
The look on PaulG's face when we knocked on the door was
priceless! I was also very greatful, that PaulG invited
his mom and Suzy to be there along with his children.
It was a great reunion on all fronts!

I was walking into our local grocery store when I got what
would be my last phone call from Paul. It was a short 5min
conversation on which he informed me he had leukemia and
was going in to the hospital for what I thought were routine
tests. I was caught off guard when he told me this news. But
the store was crowded and I was having a hard time hearing
him, so I kind of cut the phone call short thinking I would
have more time later to talk in a more quiet setting with him.
His last words to me was that he would call me after he got
out of the hospital. When I never heard back from him I had
a sinking feeling that something was wrong. I left messages
on his cell phone every couple months which still appeared to
be active. So I was hopeful that everything was still OK.
But I never got a response back which left me with a sense
of wonder.

The last time I was in Michigan was in 2014, which also was
the last time I visited with you all. He cooked out back on
your grill, as we were admiring your sliding glass door where
some bird had crashed into it the day before.

So this last September, when I finally made plans to come
back up to Michigan, I decided to physically knock on your
door hoping to see if Paul was OK. When nobody answered,
I walked away feeling still a bit of a despair. But then I
was so relieved when I got your call not long after I left
your house. Although I was saddened by the news, I finally
felt a sense of closure on the mystery. I am so thankful you
reached out to me on that day! The most shocking part is that
I didnt realize it had been 3 years since that last phone call
which I now regret cutting short.

Although it has been a few years for you, it is very fresh news
for me. I appreciate very much your indulging me in what has
turned out to be quite a long winded letter. I hope you got
some joy in hearing some of these old stories. And thanks so
much for all you do, especially your help taking care of Suzy!
Paul was very lucky to have found such a great caring and
giving person!

So in closing, Liz, I've included this thumb drive which not
only contains the video that I am anxious for you to see, but
also a seperate folder each with the pictures and recordings
with Paul. In spite of the fact that those early songs were
recorded on a cheap cassette recorder, and that we were
sometimes off key, I find them now to be my most endearing
and valued recordings. Its funny, cause at the time, we
thought they were great!

When I have made playlists in the past, I've never included
the short snipets and outtakes, but in this case, I thought
it was apropriate to do so, so you can hear more of his behind
the scenes voice talking and goofing around.

You should be able to plug the drive into any computer.
Also some DVD players have a USB port that will play the
contents on your smart TV. Either way I am very happy to
share this with you, and hope you will enjoy seeing and
hearing the sights and sounds of Paul, most of which you may
not have ever heard. Also perhaps your children might enjoy
seeing their father as a young man acting crazy with his
childhood friend.

He was a great friend and a significant part of my childhood.
And as I continue to grasp the reality of his passing, it will
always feel like a part of my youth will be missing!
He will live in my heart and mind forever!


Steven Alexander