Upper Holmesburg is mourning a valued leader

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. ••

You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

comments powered by Disqus