Valley News Staff
Dozens gathered at Town Square in Murrieta Sunday, Jan. 21, to share their memories and thoughts of Valley News’ own Paul Bandong, who died unexpectedly earlier this month.
Visitors to the event passed around a candle and took turns telling stories about Bandong. Some had known him for years, while others had only just met him, but among the tales of his life was a common thread: That Bandong was someone they could truly call a friend.
He was remembered among former colleagues, city officials and members of local charity groups for his wit, warmth, friendship and constant smile.
Valley News Sports Editor J.P. Raineri said he had gotten to spend “12 years as Paul’s friend.” Raineri shared many warm memories, including playing basketball with Bandong every Wednesday and chatting with one another in the office.
“Monday mornings were like a ritual,” Raineri said. “He would come in and we would talk sports for like an hour, and then he would check in with everybody, and then he would go up to Fallbrook. It was awesome because it was the same thing every week. And there was so much more than that and he was the man that was always there.”
Don Skaggs, the activities director for Great Oak High School, also played basketball with Bandong. He said that as others were stretching or thinking about making their first shot, Bandong would be sweeping the court and getting it ready for people to play.
Bandong was passionate about community events, especially those that would help the area’s youth, Skaggs said.
“He came to me often and would say, ‘Don, what can we do to promote the events here within this community?’ Hence why we’ve seen things such as Miss Marvelous and the Sugar Bowl and those type of events, are because Paul reinforced them and pushed them and encouraged us to do good for the community,” he said.
Gillian Larson, the creator of the Reality Rally event which raises funds for Michelle’s Place Breast Cancer Resource Center, recalled similar conversations with Bandong.
“He was constantly trying to do what he could to help us,” Larson said. “He would do interviews. He would ask for good stories. Who could he promote? Who could he talk about?
Tiffany Young, former Animal Friends of the Valleys events coordinator, said she never went to a mixer without Bandong. She said she would attend them with him, and he would know everyone. She said that if a person was involved with a nonprofit, Bandong would be in that person’s corner.
“The community lost its biggest voice,” Young said. “Not that any of us are less special, but there’s not another Paul. I know how much Paul supported nonprofits and every event. He had all of our backs. I know he had each and every one of your backs.”
When he was not out and about in the community or writing something, Bandong was spending time with his family. Numerous people throughout the event described how Bandong loved his wife Tammy and son Anthony.
Numerous people described Bandong’s positive and caring demeanor.
“He was unique in the respect that he actually cared,” Murrieta Mayor Jonathan Ingram said. “And you could see that – that he was sincere, that he was honest. He loved his family, he loved the news. Everything about him was good and he represented our community, and our community loved him.
“He just loved the community and no matter where you were, if he saw you he would always come over and say hi,” Robbie Motter of the National Association of Female Executives said. “You always knew that he truly cared. Like one of you said, he was never about ‘me,’ he was about all of you.”
Former Valley News contractor Carlos Bazan-Canabal described Bandong as a forward-thinking problem solver who never seemed to let things get him down.
“I saw him frustrated, yes, but I never saw him upset, angry,” Bazan-Cabal said. “I never saw him complaining about something. Instead his words were always of love.”
Valley News Publisher Julie Reeder similarly said that throughout her time working with Bandong, she never saw him get angry or upset. He was always passionate about his role, supportive and looking for ways that he could help at the paper.
“I’m really going to miss my friend,” she said.
Larson said there will be a tribute to Bandong in the Reality Rally’s 2018 commemorative program.
She asked that people email her with lines about Bandong, thanking him for something that he had done for them. She can be reached at [email protected].