AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) — A local woman who is about to meet her father for the first time after 65 years of searching.
“He answered…and I said ‘This is Paulette’,” said Paulette James of Augusta.
James was born in Augusta 65 years ago. Her dad was fighting in the Korean War after training at what was then Camp Gordon. Her Mom was 15 and for reasons still unknown, asked for a divorce while her father was still overseas.
“Mama was young and like any teenager she wanted to have fun,” James said. “Mama always said she loved him and I have that picture that Mama always kissed the back of with lipstick.”
A single picture was all Paulette knew of her father for more than a half century.
“I wanted to know where he was the whole time,” James said. “I always said a prayer that I hoped he was okay because he was my Daddy.”
Meanwhile, Paul Noll came home from the war and returned to his native California. He remarried, had two more children and adopted three. He and his wife travelled the world teaching computer seminars in more than 40 countries, living in Korea, Japan and China, opening a university in China that now has more than 25,000 students before settling back home in the States in Oregon, unaware a daughter was looking for him hundreds of miles away.
“It was painful at the time and it brought back, I’d sort of dismissed the entire thing,” said Noll via a FaceTime interview from his home in Oregon. It was not in my mind at all the next 65 years.”
Until this February, after Paulette’s son tracked down Paul’s contact information on the internet. On February 9th, her 65th birthday, Paulette picked up the phone.
“I said ‘what can he do, hang up or talk’?” recalled James.
“I was a bit surprised,” Noll said.
Paulette’s timing proved to be perfect. Paul’s wife had died after a long illness and he was living alone at a retirement facility where he had moved so his ailing wife could receive care.
“I need something to keep me going so Paulette was a life saving event for me to have somewhere to go where someone cares about you and is concerned about you,” said Noll.
“I think he was lonely where he’s at and I don’t want him to be lonely,” said James.
But before the two could meet in person, there was one final hurdle.”
“She’s very self-conscious of her teeth situation,” said Noll.
Growing up poor, Paulette had no access to dental care and lost her teeth at an early age.
“She only had an upper denture so that caused her to have, basically, loss of function in her lower face,” said Ruth Ann D’Arco of Belair Dental Associates. “It aged her. She couldn’t speak very well. And so she was very self-conscious about the way she looked and didn’t want to meet him and look like that.”
So Paul covered the $12,000 cost of giving his long lost daughter’s mouth a makeover.
“When I sent him the pictures he said ‘Oh, I see a beautiful girl!’ That made me feel really good.” said James. “It’s going to make a world of difference in how I feel.”
And this week Paul is making the nearly 2,800 mile trip from Oregon to Augusta to meet Paulette for the first time.
“I feel like Cinderella,” said James. “Stuff’s happening to me that I never thought would happen to me.”
“Her kids think she’s going to knock me over hugging me,” said Noll.
“Just thinking about it right now makes me want to get tears in my eyes because it’s going to be so special,” James said. “I want to hug him and kiss him. It’s always something I’ve always wanted.”
Mr. Noll will be arriving with a moving truck and plans to live out the rest of his days with Paulette in Augusta. WJBF will bring you that part of the story on Friday, July 15th.
In the meantime, to read and see more about Paul Noll’s travels and accomplishments over the years, click here.