Dolphin Paul Bodenstein
Dolphin Paul Bodenstein
Dolphin Paul Bodenstein took his last breath on Jan. 18, 2013. All those of us who love him have a hard time accepting his final goodbye, especially after seeing a body full of energy, a mind brimming with questions, and a heart overflowing with love, continually giving of himself to others throughout his life.
Dolphin was born Paul Edward Bodenstein on July 15, 1927, in Cincinnati, Ohio, to Edward J. and Ruth Puff Bodenstein. He grew up in Fort Thomas, Ky., with his older sister, Grace, and many relatives in the neighborhood.
He was a World War II veteran, serving in in the United States Navy at Mare Island, decommissioning equipment at the end of the war.
Multi-talented, he served as a Methodist minister to two rural Kentucky churches, and also worked a furniture mover, a houseparent, an elementary school teacher and principal and a school adjustment counselor. Mechanically inclined, he restored a T-Model Ford truck, his first vehicle. He learned carpentry skills from his father and shared his practical skills with many people over the years.
Paul married his Union College sweetheart, Nancy Miller, on Sept. 11, 1949, and they raised three children, David, Paula and Scott. They lived in Colorado Springs, Colo., and Wilmington, Mass. He attended Harvard Divinity School briefly and earned a master’s degree in education from Boston University.
He always worked for social justice in his church and was a leader of the Wilmington Committee on Human Rights. After his early retirement from teaching and a divorce, he travelled for many years in a Dolphin camper, seeing the United States and developing memorable relationships with many people. Probably his biggest life challenge was losing his son David to a sailing accident in the Atlantic Ocean in 1984. Some of his greatest joys have been continuing and deepening relationships with his family and friends.
For a few years, he lived with Dominque Parducci and helped raise her two children, Rosalind and Daniel. They have such gratitude for his influence on their early lives.
Always a spiritual seeker, he studied with several organizations, including the Jack Gibb group, Association for Humanistic Psychology, Arica and the Human Awareness Institute (HAI). He supported Greenpeace, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and other ecological and justice groups. His fond memories include meeting the philosopher Alan Watts and serving Ken Keyes as his personal masseur.
After doing volunteer work with HAI for many years, Dolphin met another major love of his life, Ruth Hoppe, at a HAI workshop in January 2008. Since then, they lived together in Sonoma and enjoyed traveling as well as continuing to develop heart-based relationships and volunteer work. He was a member of three men’s groups, a nonviolent communication study group, the First Congregational Church, an LGBT support group, the Praxis Peace Institute and Sacred Connections.
Suddenly hit with leukemia, he declined quickly. He spent time in Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital and in Sonoma Valley Hospital – Skilled Nursing Facility, where he spent his last days.
When his son Scott asked him what else he would like to do in his life if he had the opportunity, Dolphin said he’d really like to go to the Sonoma Healthcare Center and do more massage on patients and staff, as he had been doing the past year. On his last day, he struggled to get his words out, “Life is good.” Generous beyond the end, he donated his body to the University of California – Davis Medical School.\
Those left behind include his sweetheart/partner Ruth Hoppe; daughter, Paula Clearwater (and Chris); son, Scott Bodenstein; grandchildren, Dawn Sawyer (and Tony) and Davona Noon (and Chris; great-grandchildren, Gabriel Sawyer and Morgan Noon; his sister, Grace Heath (and Jack); former wife of 35 years, Nancy Thomason (and Terry); several nieces and nephews; and many dear friends. We offer deep gratitude who everyone who has offered their support and prayers during this difficult time.
A memorial service to appreciate and celebrate Dolphin’s life will be held on Saturday, Feb. 2 at 2 p.m. in Burlingame Hall (First Congregational Church), 252 W. Spain St., Sonoma. This is an opportunity to love each other as he has loved us.