Remembering Paul Jolly

How do you write about the death of a friend? Words can only approximate the sense of loss and sadness that hit me when I learned of the passing of Paul Jolly.

Paul passed away over the weekend. He had been suffering from Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS), which affects the nerve cells in the brain and spine, for several years and passed peacefully in his sleep. Paul was the executive director of Petco Foundation until the ravages of that terrible disease sidelined him last year.

I first met him in the early days of Best Friends, and Paul was first and foremost an animal person. He was on the board of directors of H.A.R.T., a Southern California rescue organization that was instrumental in facilitating thousands of pet adoptions from area rescues in the pre-Internet era, and championed the cause of no-kill throughout his career.

Back in the mid-1980s, he was regional manager for Petco and helped Best Friends set up adoptions at their Las Vegas store. In those days, we were very hand-to-mouth and were pretty much making it up on the fly. Paul helped us not only with adoptions, but with donations of food and supplies.

As Best Friends grew and began hosting events, Paul was a go-to guy for sponsorship and had a deep affection for the grassroots/guerrilla flavor of everything Best Friends did. Despite the apparent chaos of some of our early efforts, he would say, "I don't understand it, but somehow or other, it all seems to work."

Over the years, Paul became a personal friend to many of Best Friends founders. When we learned of his condition, Best Friends named a stretch of road at the Sanctuary in his honor. The last time I saw him was last year when I presented him with a modest plaque and a photo of the street sign at Best Friends. It was a bittersweet moment, and we both made a point of holding back tears. He was wheelchair bound and highly compromised but strong in spirit and more concerned about the progress of NKLA than in discussing his health.

Paul was a genuinely good man. As executive director of Petco Foundation, he raised and distributed over $110 million to animal causes across the country.

The animals will miss him, and I, as everyone who got to know him, will miss him too.

If you have any memories of Paul, please share them below.

Good thoughts, Paul. Rest in peace.