All that most people can hope for themselves after they die is to have left some sort of legacy for the people around them.
For 46-year-old Darrell Paulovich, who died tragically in a highway collision on Oct. 12, it’s clear his life will be remembered for years to come.
A special memorial was held for Paulovich in Ponoka Nov. 16 with family and friends from all over central Alberta attending.
Paulovich was one of rodeo’s biggest advocates, travelling to performances all over North America including the CFR and NFR. On the night of his untimely death, Paulovich was returning from the Foothills Rodeo Association Finals in Red Deer.
Anyone can be a rodeo fan, but as family and friends remembered his life, it’s clear rodeo, a love for horses and trucking was in his blood. His passion and advocacy for the sport was just one part of a man who treated everyone as if they were his best friend.
Rodeo announcer Brett Gardiner spoke of Paulovich’s trademark smile that everyone remembers. Gardiner took time to acknowledge Paulovich’s family and his “kids.”
“For those of you that knew Darrell, he affectionately referred to his parents as his kids,” explained Gardiner.
He spoke of Paulovich’s love for the sport of rodeo. “The only guy who out-rodeoed me was Darrell.”
Another close friend of Paulovich is Stella Stevens, host with CFCW radio. She too spoke fondly of his smile and how well he was known in the rodeo world.
Paulovich would always buy her a gift from his trips to the NFR. As Stevens was telling this story, Paulovich’s parents Elmer and Paulette brought up a gift for Stevens.
“I have every little souvenir that Darrell bought me,” Stevens said.
“He was always there for me and when I had a rough day I would always text him,” she added.
“I know that we suffered a great loss but a greater loss would have been not ever meeting Darrell at all.”
Paulovich was the kind of person who could turn a bad situation into a positive one. That was evidenced by his own life having become paralyzed from the chest down in an October 1997 trucking accident.
Rather than focussing on his limitations as a result of the accident, Paulovich learned how to drive a customized van, which gave him opportunities to follow rodeo events all over.
“He lived his life to the fullest,” said family member Nora Paulovich, reading his eulogy.
“The day he got his Alberta licence was a true Alberta winter day, storming and snowing,” she said. “His examiner asked him if he’d like to postpone it for better weather.”
“Darrell replied, ‘Nope. I’ll have to drive in this sh— one day, might as well be today.’” The story drew a laugh from everyone in attendance.
Perhaps what really speaks to the type of person Paulovich was, is a post he made on Facebook last year. On Oct. 1, 2017 Paulovich recognized his parents for their support of him. Gardiner read the Facebook post to attendees.
In that post, Paulovich pointed out how his life changed dramatically in that trucking accident and how it was his parents — his kids — who helped him through it all.
“They have been there through everything that I went through and if it wasn’t for them I would not be as good as I am with my life than I am today. They are the best parents that I ever could have had and I say ‘thank you’ every day that I have them,” stated Paulovich.
He pointed out how proud he was of them for their love.
“When you have all the support from such people surrounding you, you can almost get through anything,” said Paulovich.
It is clear he showed gratitude for the life he lived, for the sport he loved and the people around him.
“Like I always say, enjoy life while you’re on the right side of the grass, and that is what I’m doing.”
“I’m happy for the life I have now because if it wasn’t for what happened to me 20 years ago I would not have become closer to my family and to my friends that I have.”
This was the third memorial for Paulovich whose life was celebrated in Manning on Oct. 20, as well as with a small group of people in Edmonton where he lived.