The Upper Holmesburg community is mourning the death of one of the neighborhood’s most active and influential leaders.
Paul Kauffman was a founding board member of the Upper Holmesburg Civic Association and the driving force behind the creation of the Trumbette Playground. He was 78 and died of natural causes on Aug. 22, his family said.
“He was always willing to volunteer to do anything for everybody,” said Stan Cywinski, president of the UHCA. “Paul was a doer. He wasn’t a talker; he was a doer.”
Kauffman and his wife of 59 years, Lorraine, moved onto Tolbut Street 52 years ago and raised a family there. The couple raised two daughters, Donna and Lorrie, and a son, Paul.
Kauffman worked as a maintenance machinist for several area companies before retiring six or seven years ago, his wife said. It was then that his career in public service began to flourish.
He led a neighborhood effort to convert an empty, overgrown lot at Torresdale Avenue and Tolbut Street into a playground. Now, it has three ball fields, a basketball court and climbing equipment for younger children.
“Basically. there wasn’t anything over there, and they built the whole playground,” Lorraine Kauffman said. “(He did it) for the neighborhood, for the children, so they would have a good place to play and wouldn’t be out on the street.”
The playground was named in honor of Ronald Trumbette, a police officer shot and killed in 1975 by a burglary suspect in South Philadelphia. Each morning, Kauffman would unlock the gate to the facility and clean up trash that was left by its users. Each night, he would relock the gate.
“He was responsible for that playground,” Cywinski said.
When several neighborhood residents reformed the UHCA seven years ago, Kauffman was quick to get involved. He soon became “the face of the organization,” attending other civic meetings in the Northeast and meetings of the 8th Police District Advisory Committee, Cywinski said. The former Liddonfield Homes public-housing project was another major issue in Upper Holmesburg. Kauffman acted as a liaison between neighbors and public officials responsible for its maintenance and later its redevelopment.
After the site was demolished last year, Kauffman kept tabs on the condition of the property and called public officials whenever the weeds grew too high or trash began piling up.
“Anything to do with properties, he was on it, whether it was playgrounds, Liddonfield or nuisance properties. He kept the community clean,” Cywinski said.
Kauffman also worked on many beautification projects. Lorraine Kauffman recalled how her husband helped get additional lighting and “Upper Holmesburg” banners installed along Frankford Avenue, as well as new trees and public benches.
He was a Democratic committeeman in the 65th Ward and was often in contact with the local office of the Community Life Improvement Project.
“He was basically our interface with CLIP. He was a familiar face at (state Rep. Mike) McGeehan’s office and at CLIP. I know he went to (state Sen. Mike) Stack’s office and worked with our council person (Joan Krajewski),” Cywinski said.
“He was a go-to guy to a lot of people, and he was a pain in the ass to some because he wouldn’t let anything go.”
Yet, Kauffman always did it with a smile and an upbeat disposition, despite chronic health issues that had begun to worsen in recent months.
“He had some medical problems, but we had a meeting (on Aug. 16) and he was there,” Cywinski said.
The UHCA has postponed indefinitely an open house and Octoberfest that had been planned for Sept. 30 and Oct. 1.
Kauffman remained modest in his work, refusing to accept accolades for his accomplishments.
“We wanted to recognize him a couple of times, and he got downright mad. He did not need recognition,” Cywinski said. “He just wanted to see this organization flourish and do what it was designed to do.”
In addition to his wife and children, Kauffman is survived by five grandchildren and one great-granddaughter. Two more great-grandchildren are on the way.
A public viewing was held for Kauffman on Friday at Burns Funeral Home. Burial was private. The family asked that any donations be made to the Upper Holmesburg Civic Association, P.O. Box 39263, Philadelphia, PA 19136. ••