The remains of a Saltmils man who risked his life in Iraq sweeping mines during the Gulf War – earning a Purple Heart for his extraordinary bravery – will be returned to his native area this week to be laid to rest following his death in a tragic car accident following Hurricane Ida.
Paul Molloy (51) was on his way to work in Pennsylvania on Wednesday when his car aquaplaned on a pool of water following a massive downpour in his adopted city of Pittsburgh.
His partner Susan Kazak was at home when she got a call from his work asking if he was coming in. As she left to go look for him a squad car pulled up in her driveway as the terrible news hit home.
Paul loved America and having left Good Counsel College – where he was known for renting out tapes – he set off to pursue his dreams having won a scholarship to Mercyhurst College in Pittsburgh, where he studied Chemistry.
Having served with the FCA, he joined the Reserve Defence Forces, volunteering one weekend a month and three weeks during the summer. This brought him overseas to countries like Germany.
He worked at a company for 21 years and in his late forties he reinvented himself by returning to college to study nuclear science.
Paul went on to administer chemotherapy to cancer patients and was planning to return to further studies so he could use the latest technology to help people fight life threatening illnesses.
"He had an Irish swagger about him and with his ability he was able to do very well in America.”
Paul was the eldest of five children born to Eileen and Joe Molloy and his death has left a huge void in not only his parents, brothers Dermot and Brian, sisters Mairéad and Elaine, and partner’s lives, but in the lives of everyone who had the good fortune to know Paul.
His family received the news on Wednesday and both Eileen and his brother Brian flew out to Pittsburgh on Sunday for a service for Paul, prior to repatriating his remains to be buried in Templetown, following Mass this weekend.
“He was in America for 32 years but never lost his Irish accent and never lost touch with his roots. When he came home he was his quiet, private self. He loved walking in Tintern Abbey. He’d arrive in and hand a bag of clothes to Mam to be washed like he was never away.”
Paul was last home in 2018 and was due to fly to France for a family reunion in June 2020 and again this summer, but Covid put paid to that.
"I was going to show him all of the World War II sites; that’s never going to happen now.”
An avid reader Paul was knowledgeable on a wide variety of topics. He loved American culture and guns and was never far from his trusty firearm.
He joined the military in 2004 at a time when US army personnel numbers were stretched. He didn’t hesitate when he was called up to be part of the armed forces in Iraq, and was based for 12 months in the Baghdad area.
“He was prepared for war and went out to a country where he knew he could be shot at. He worked on the bomb disposal squad on a Buffalo vehicle, clearing roads of mines when the army was transporting on the roads. The Iraqis would put mines under dead animals so they’d go off.”
While there he wrote Brian a letter. Paul had been to one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces and – along with some soldiers - had taken the liberty to take some headed paper from a desk.
"It was Iraqi National Guard headed paper,” Brian said, adding that he treasured it, but sadly lost it in a fire in 2017.
"I remember him telling me about robbing marble off of the palace which was used on a path at the base. There were things he saw that most of us would only see in films.”
Injured by flying shrapnel in an explosion in early 2004, Paul recovered and returned to service. It was for this bravery that the volunteer call-up was awarded the Purple Heart.
"He never told Mam or anyone. He was transferred back out to serve again. When he had served his 12 months he went back to work having been deprogrammed in Fort Lauderdale.”
Paul met Susan when he was in his early twenties and they hit it off.
They remained friends and their relationship rekindled when Paul was in his forties.
Susan loved Irish culture and Paddy’s Day was always a big event in their house. Brian said Susan has given the family the most incredible gift in allowing Paul’s remains to be returned for burial to his native area.
"Susan can’t travel. She never expected his to happen. It’s such an amazing gift she is giving us. She has every right to keep him there. Now we’ll have a grave in Ireland; somewhere my parents can go to.”
Brian said the family have been overwhelmed by the kindness from people in Saltmills and the wider peninsula area over recent days.
“There is a constant stream of people. There’s tears and laughter, often in the same conversation. We are all in a state of shock.”
Paul made a great effort to keep in touch with family, so much so his young nephews and nieces all know him.
“He’d come back for weddings, Christenings and occasions like Christmas when he could.”
"We are bringing his Purple Heart back to Saltmills.”
Recalling a kind, thoughtful brother, Brian said: “He fought for America and freedom and felt very strongly about his principles. He was so sensible and a rock to the family. He was so well versed on everything and knowledgeable.”
Paul is survived by his loving family; partner Susan; sister-in-law, brothers-in-law, nieces, nephews, extended family and friends.