Paul Bixby, a long-time Whidbey Island resident, died Nov. 15 at Summerhill in Oak Harbor, Wash., after a brief illness. Paul had just celebrated his 99th birthday last July with friends and family.
Paul was born July 27, 1920 in North Andover, Mass., and grew up on Pleasant Street and Bixby Avenue — named for the family. He skipped a grade in school, graduated early, and then went to Tufts University, where he earned a civil engineering degree in 1941. One of his first jobs was on the Panama Canal, where he asked his crew to speak only Spanish with him. He remained fluent in Spanish throughout his life.
He joined the Navy in 1943 and was attending a USO dance in Washington, D.C., when he met the beautiful Sue Taylor, his future bride – making sure he was in front of Sue each time the “John Paul Jones” dance came to a stop.
He was sent to Notre Dame for officer training and was commissioned on March 31, 1944 — and he married Sue that same day, the beginning of their joyful 74-year marriage.
As a member of the Seabees, the Navy sent him to the Philippines, Morocco, Alaska, and a variety of stateside assignments, while he and Sue raised three daughters, Betty Lynn (Delbert) Mercure, Nancy Jane (William) Campin and Linda Sue Barfuss. Paul and Sue greatly enjoyed the family as it grew to nine grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren
Although never stationed on Whidbey, Paul and Sue loved the island, so when he retired from the Navy as a commander in 1969, they bought a beautiful piece of property on West Beach, where they lived for over 40 years. They later moved into Regency retirement community and then Summerhill assisted living.
Paul worked briefly for Island County as an engineer and then retired full-time. He and Sue, who died in 2018, had a wide variety of friends and enjoyed theater, opera, and the Oak Harbor Senior Center. Paul took occasional classes at Skagit Valley College, contributed letters to the local paper, and enjoyed activities with the Pandorans and the New Englanders Club. Throughout his life, he kept an interest in sciences, the humanities, arts, poetry, education, exploration and nature.
The Bixbys moved to Summerhill assisted living in 2017, and the family is grateful for the Summerhill staff, and the Whidbey Health Hospice team, for their gracious and comforting care for Paul in his final days.
A memorial service for close friends and family will be held at 1:30 p.m., Dec. 14 at Whidbey Memorial, 746 N.E. Midway Boulevard, Oak Harbor. The family suggests contributions to veterans’ organizations such as Wounded Warriors or the Veterans of Foreign Wars, or to environmental groups.
Family and friends are encouraged to share memories and condolences at www.whidbeymemorial.com.