City Mourns Paul Abbey, 66, Beloved & Passionate Volunteer

Paul Abbey in a familiar pose — working on the South Pas Tournament of Roses float a few years ago. Abbey died suddenly this week. Photo by Henk Friezer

Paul Abbey, a South Pasadena resident and dedicated volunteer for the city’s Tournament of Roses Committee, died on Friday, Sept. 27, due to heart complications, friends and family confirmed. He was 66.

“I think out of everything he’s been involved with in South Pasadena, the South Pasadena Tournament of Roses was his greatest passion,” fellow committee volunteer John Vandercook told the Review. “He was a very dedicated volunteer to the Tournament of Roses and was always available to solve problems and help the association and help others.”

Abbey was the owner of Abbey Graphics in Arcadia and a 1972 graduate of Alhambra High School. He is survived by his wife Cathy; children Amber Andrews, Bob Abbey and Mike Kaio; and five grandchildren: Saphire Bennett, Kahale Bennett, Joshua Andrews, Samantha Andrews and Adam Andrews.

At the South Pasadena Tournament of Roses Committee meeting Tuesday, President Courtney Dunlap opened the evening with a moment of silence for Abbey.

“Think of Paul,” said Dunlap. “Think of his wife, his kids, his grandkids, his family and how much he meant to our organization, our community.”

Abbey was a longtime presence with the tournament float, working on it as recently as last Thursday at the construction site behind the War Memorial building.

The city’s 2020 entry, “Victory at Last,” a salute to women’s suffrage, was selected as this year’s float theme, as a remembrance on the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted women voting rights.

Abbey was first inspired by his daughter Amber’s participation on the construction crew in the early 2000s, when she was attending South Pasadena High School. When Amber graduated, Paul and his son Bob ended up joining to assist with construction and fundraising. Amber also met her husband Jonathan Andrews as he was working with the construction crew.

Over the years, Abbey served as chair and numerous other positions on the committee. He was also a committed volunteer to the South Pasadena High School Boosters, Tiger Bingo, Chamber of Commerce and Kiwanis Club.

“He was very giving, especially to the community,” said Amber. “He was a very overall happy person. He liked to smile and laugh.”

Paul Abbey, South Pasadena Tournament of Roses Committee design chair (third from right) and his team pose in December 2018 in front of what turned out to be an award-winning float for 2019, “Three Little Birds.” Other committee members are (left to right) Courtney Dunlap, Chris Duenas-Metcalf, City Council Liaison Richard Schneider, Janet Benjamin and Chris Colburn. Photo by Sally Kilby

James Jontz, event and site chairman and construction crew member, recalled that Abbey was always one to step up to help with fundraising and help with Crunch Time parties. After years of assisting, he committed himself even more by joining the construction crew and lending his experience to the team. Jontz said Abbey was always one to share good ideas and excelled at finding collective solutions.

“He just had a way of doing things that always seemed to work well with everybody,” said Jontz. “He had a knack for being able to get everybody to work together, really get us all on the same page and understand how it all worked together.”

Mayor Marina Khubesrian recalled Abbey as “always being so pleasant, with a big smile on his face,” and he felt like “the anchor of this [SPTOR] committee.”

“For me, he exemplifies this spirit of volunteerism that exemplifies so much of what I love about this city,” said Khubesrian.

Janet Benjamin, head of decoration, remembered Abbey’s sense of calm, and said he would watch over people and mentored everyone in some way with the float construction.

“We have a huge hole in our hearts right now,” said Benjamin. “It was so unexpected. Everyone is still in shock. We’re missing a huge part of our organization, a huge part of our heart. He was always there for everyone. He was an amazing man.”

Friends and family were organizing a celebration for Abbey that will be held Oct. 19 at the War Memorial from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., according to Benjamin.