Paul E. Jorgensen died of natural causes on Oct. 24, 2019, at his home on Eagle Lake. He was 84. 

A lifelong resident of Wisconsin, he was born near Waupaca, Wis., spent his school years in Madison, Wis., and after graduating with honors with a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture from UW-Madison, he moved to the Eagle River area in 1957. 

Sports dominated Paul’s life. He loved to play sports, watch sports and talk sports. He knew all the teams, the players, the stats, and possessed the remarkable ability to vividly recount sporting events, such as the historic 1967 Ice Bowl, which he attended with 50,000 other fans, or the 2012 Rose Bowl game. He also wasn’t shy about sharing his opinions, not just about sports but about everything. 

Under his senior picture in his high school yearbook, Paul chose this quote: “Better to be short and shine, than tall and cast a shadow.” And he did shine, especially as an athlete. At Madison West High School, he was a starting guard on the varsity basketball team and played left-field on the baseball team. When he was a junior in high school, he made the all-star team, batting an impressive “.680 for the season.” In his senior year, Madison West won the state championship and he was the MVP. According to Paul, he learned to bat by studying pictures of Ted Williams and mimicking him. Later in life, he claims he learned how to play tennis by watching Jimmy Connors and Bjorn Borg on television. 

He also loved to ski, on water and on snow. Despite his fear of heights, he joined the ski jumping team in Madison, hoping to earn a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. That dream was thwarted when his basketball coach forced him to choose basketball over ski jumping. When Paul quit the ski team, he was ranked third in the USA U18 (under age 18) group. 

At the University of Wisconsin, Paul played sports for his fraternity Delta Upsilon. After he moved up north, he played on The Chiefs baseball team. The only sport he regrets never learning how to play was hockey and often joked that he could’ve been great but he just didn’t have the ankles for that sport. Instead, he did the next best thing: he became a sports announcer for WERL Radio. From 1965-’75, he covered the hockey, basketball and baseball games, as well as the annual Eagle River World Championship Snowmobile Derby races. He also hosted two weekly sports shows, one about the Wisconsin Badgers and the other on the Green Bay Packers. Locals still remember his dramatic, sometimes frenzied, play-by-play radio coverage, which made them feel as if they were sitting front and center at those games. Some listeners just tuned in to hear Paul mangle players’ names. He was also a master of malapropisms. 

Unfortunately, Paul didn’t become a minor league baseball player (or a ski bum). As the only surviving son of Emil Jorgensen, after Paul finished college, he joined his father in managing Oneida Farms Inc., the Jorgensen family’s 3,400 acres of farm and timberland in Vilas and Oneida counties. From 1957-’66, Paul was secretary/treasurer, and then in 1967, he became the president/owner until 1976 when the farm was sold. For years, the farm employed a year-round crew of 20 and, during harvest and shipping season, up to 150 seasonal workers. During the years Paul worked on the farm, he was also an owner/partner of several local taverns and a nightclub. 

Paul was married for 19 years to Linda Wasson and they had five daughters: Laura, Jody, Heidi, Karla and Christl. In 1976, they divorced and he moved to Rancho Mirage, Calif., where he enjoyed the next 35 mild winters of his life. 

For years he was the head convention bartender at Marriott’s Rancho Las Palmas Resort until tennis became his livelihood. Tennis came as naturally to Paul as baseball, and within a couple of years, he became a tennis instructor at Tamarisk Country Club, a private club in Rancho Mirage, where Frank Sinatra built his fabled desert home on the club’s golf course. One of the highlights of Paul’s life was playing tennis on the private tennis court at that house with Barbara Sinatra, Frank’s wife at the time, and finally meeting Sinatra himself. It was one of the few times in Paul’s life when he was left speechless. 

In 1986, Paul landed a dream job as a tennis pro at Thunderbird Country Club in Rancho Mirage, eventually becoming the tennis director at the club and the ladies’ tennis team coach. He played tennis with Hollywood celebrities and former U.S. President George H.W. Bush. In 2009, he retired from Thunderbird and moved back to Eagle River year-round. 

The day before Paul died in late October, he was raking leaves in his immaculately landscaped yard. He loved to be outdoors. A few of his favorite adventures were skiing in Aspen, fishing in Canada, summiting Mount Whitney, whitewater rafting in Colorado, accidentally canoeing over a 20-foot waterfall, and kayaking in Sylvania Wilderness. Above all, he was an entertaining storyteller and loved to share candid tales of his life experiences. Thanks to everyone who listened to his stories. And to all whom he offered unsolicited advice, here’s my favorite: “Always wear your shoes loose. I learned that when I was ski jumping. And it saved my life when I went over that waterfall.”

Lastly, he quipped, “I had a good life. Better than most.” He will be missed.

Paul is survived by his five daughters and their husbands: John, Brad, Jeff, Chris and Eric; his seven grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. 

He was preceded in death by his father, Emil; mother, Lois; brother, John; sister, Gretchen; and sister, Katie. 

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the 3 Eagle Trail Foundation at 3eagletrail.com or the Eagle River Chain of Lakes Association at ercla.org. 

Unfortunately we have to postpone the upcoming planned memorial service due to COVID-19 travel and gathering restrictions. We will reschedule a celebration of life memorial service as soon as all restrictions have been lifted across America. New date will be posted in the News-Review.

Arrangements by Gaffney-Busha Funeral Home, Eagle River. Online condolences may be expressed at gaffney-busha.com.

PAID OBITUARY