Memorial tribute to a high school chum

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Posted 23 Mar 2011 in Uncategorized

Paul Mischakoff 1939-2011

Paul was a great friend and great human being, kind and caring. His outlook on life illuminated everyone who came to know him. I felt it important to compile stories and experiences from his family and myself. If you have any memories to share, please add to the comments.

By Anne Heiles, Paul’s sister:

Paul was born July 2, 1939, in New York City. Both his parents were violinists and violin teachers, and his father, Mischa Mischakoff, was considered perhaps the world’s greatest concertmaster at the time of Paul’s birth. People might be surprised to know Paul was a hyperactive youngster, the type who took apart everything mechanical to figure out its innards. He was ahead of his age group at school, until being hit by an automobile when riding his bike home from school. After being in a coma for three weeks, he pulled through but was slowed down.

He attended Highland Park High School in Michigan after the family moved to Detroit in 1952 for his father to be concertmaster of the Detroit Symphony. He recalled how much he enjoyed being the engineer for the Radio Club, which broadcast from HPHS. Paul later became class treasurer for class reunions of his high school graduating class. After a year at the University of Michigan in electrical engineering, Paul transferred to Hillsdale College, from which he graduated in 1963 with a major in education and minors in physics and psychology. He attended Syracuse University to study math education the following year. Paul then taught math at Hampton Middle School for a year. In 1966 he received his MBA from Wayne State University, his thesis being among the first on computers. He passed the CPA exam the first time he took it.

He also worked for the Water Department for the City of Detroit while studying for an MBA. He spent two years with the Small Business Administration, worked for Sherman, Nathan, Ettinger, and Shewach, and finally became an independent CPA.

He was a Lifetime Member of the Economic Club of Detroit and of the Michigan Association of Certified Public Accountants (MACPA) and very much enjoyed conferences, workshops for CPUs, and the conviviality of fellow MACPA members. Just days before his death, the MACPA recognized Paul for his contributions to the organization.  He also was a longtime usher at Temple Israel as part of his membership in its Men’s Club. Chautauqua Institution, with its lake, lectures, Music Festival, and friendships was especially dear to his heart, and he spent summer vacations there at least 50 years!

One memory I will treasure is sitting with Paul at what proved to be his last dinner. He made a characteristic wry joke, a succinct observation that only Paul would have made, despite the obvious discomfort he was experiencing and his awareness that his life was quickly winding down. then we talked about the Chautauqua program, and he told me what weeks he would like most to attend. “Chautuaqua is the constant in my life,” he said.

By Leonard Borman:

I know little about Paul’s professional life. I knew he was a sole accounting practitioner. I graduated college majoring in accounting and practiced public accounting for about ten years. Our paths never crossed. Syd Weinstein and Steve Klausner, who practiced in public accounting, knew Paul personally and professionally. Unfortunately Steve died about 5 years ago and Syd lives in Florida fighting serious illnesses. Steve once mentioned to me he hired Paul to help with some accounts.

What I do know surrounds his personal life. Paul was well liked by high school classmates. He carried a bright outlook on life. His handicap never interfered with his getting the most out of his educational opportunities. He held his ground. I knew Paul’s father was a violinist with the Detroit Symphony, but he never told or bragged to classmates about his station in life. I’m not sure they are aware today. He always was where he was assigned to be: classes or meetings. No one teased him all the years I knew him. A great tribute; he earned respect.

At the nursing home, we once had a conversation about his father. He told me Mischa was Toscanini’s concert master. I knew he played in his orchestra, but not as concertmaster. I said I’d seen an old Toscanini concert on Youtube from about 1952. On that occasion, March 22, 1952, Toscannini led the NBC Symphony Orchestra in a live television broadcast from Carnegie Hall playing Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. I asked Paul if his father would be in the orchestra. He said yes, and I asked where to look for him. “Over Toscanini’s left shoulder.” I went home and pulled up the Youtube concert. An 85-year-old man walked to the podium. Many camera angles were used. The camera angles of Toscanini from behind and from his right profile were priceless. To his left was his father, where Paul said he’d be.

Paul was proud of his parents. He learned study habits and the importance of practice from them. Paul said Toscanini told his father, practice with the string section and make sure everyone played together. Practice showed. It was the greatest performance of Beethoven’s fifth I’ve ever heard. Toscanini knew his part. In the performance, Toscanini by the 4th movement perspired heavily from the floodlights. Nevertheless, he kept going and led the finale with his eyes closed.

One year, my wife, Bobbie, and I invited Paul to a Seder at our home. He drove himself and came to the right address without asking us for directions. He arrived on time. We enjoyed his company. Talkative, we reminisced about old classmates. Updated somehow, he knew everyone’s whereabouts and doings. My son Alan recalled with astonishment, how he kept in contact with high school buddies for so many years. He enjoyed Paul’s company. He told me to say hello the next time we spoke. Bobbie met Paul many times. She knows more of Paul’s goings on than I do. Steve Klausner’s wife, Dorothy, is a close friend of hers.

Paul loved the HPHS reunions. He placed himself on the committee planning  every time. As always, he never missed a meeting and showed up on time. He loved being around old classmates. His notes from previous events were available. They helped assure decisions about the party were close to the vest. Costs were in total control with Paul as treasurer.

Paul was a regular attendee at Classical music concerts. It was a regular venue for us to run into each other and chat before the performance. Acquainted with the music or ensemble, he would tell me about noteworthy items. I knew Paul was not in good health, but seeing him the first time using a walker disturbed me. I hoped it was temporary, but I was optimistic.

I attended the Pro Mozart Society’s events, as the husband of Bobbie’s friend was president. Recently, I was asked to join the board. At a meeting on ticket sales, Paul’s name was brought up. He had not been seen recently at concerts. I told them I was a friend of Paul’s and that his health prevented him from attending. They were all saddened learning about his passing.

Paul was by many a very unique person. Everyone held a different opinion just what cemented a bond. Without hesitation, all feel a very personal loss.

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