Grant Paulsen was the sort of fellow you could rely on to see the silver lining in any situation. Even as the rain came down on Saturday, Oct. 1, people gathered to remember him and could easily imagine him saying something like, “Well, at least it’s not snowing.”
It was almost a year ago that Grant suddenly, and without warning, passed away from a stroke shortly after Thanksgiving, leaving a giant hole not only in the lives of his family, but in all those who knew him. He was 57.
Family and friends gathered at the family homestead south of Endiang for the second Grant Paulsen Memorial Skeet Shoot, taking an activity Grant loved and turning it into a celebration of their lost son, father, brother and friend.
Though he had lived much of his adult life in Airdrie, Grant had never lost touch with his Endiang roots, frequently returning to the farmstead to spend time with his family, his childhood friends, and to enjoy rural life.
“My dad, physically, was a monster of a man,” Patrick Paulsen said. “But as a person, he was the best sort of friend you could ever want. He was always there to help, he was gentle, he was funny, and he always saw the best in everything.”
The memorial skeet shoot evolved out of a way to deal with the grief of Grant’s sudden passing, and the first was held the day after his funeral last October.
“We wanted a way to celebrate who dad was,” Patrick said. The skeet shoot allowed grieving friends and family a chance to take part in an activity Grant had loved, and through that activity, stories about who Grant was and many of the absurd, silly and enjoyable moments were shared. It helped ease the ache of loss, and gave that silver lining that Grant inevitably would have found.
When October drew near again this year, Grant’s mother, Winnie, decided with the rest of the family 0to hold another skeet shoot. Whether or not the event will become an annual one is still up in the air, but with Thanksgiving approaching and the grief of Grant’s loss boiling back to the surface, it seemed a good way to bring back those happier memories.
“This year I can really take part,” Grant’s widow, Jaqui Paulsen, said. “Last year, I took part but I wasn’t really there. I was dealing with so much.”
She said the outpouring of support, the stories about her husband, and taking part in an activity that Grant had loved and shared with his family helped.
In a skeet shoot, a clay disc is fired into the air. The shooter attempts to hit it with a shot from a shotgun before the disc hits the ground. Both experienced shooters and people who had never fired a gun before came out to take part in the shoot, which happened between spurts of downpouring, cold autumn rain.
Grant’s daughter Katie came out to the shoot as well, heading out onto the wet hill in the drizzling rain to take aim at some of the bright orange clay discs used in the shoot. While the discs she shot at made it safely to the ground, those her brother shot at exploded into brightly coloured shards of clay thanks to his precise aim.
Grant was a gun safety advocate, one of the strictest gun safety advocates you could ever know, his son said. By having a skeet shoot in his father’s memory, his family was also able to introduce the safe and enjoyable use of firearms to people who had never shot before.
When shooters got cold, they were able to head into a heated tent and enjoy hot coffee, hot chocolate, beef on a bun and stew, all designed to warm up people chilled by autumnal rain. The hot foods were augmented by cold; salads, snacks and water awaited those who were hungry. The brunch was supplied by the family, though many of the attendees augmented the takings. Bower Meats, who supplied the pulled beef for the first shoot last year, returned with their “delicious” food, Winnie Paulsen said.
A $50 fee was charged to shoot, which covered the cost of the skeet discs and other event costs. Whatever money is left over will be donated to the Alberta Hunter Education Instructors Association.
While not all who attended took part in the shooting, everyone who attended took part in remembering a friend who left far too early.