There was no shortage of words used to describe East Hartford police officer and South Windsor resident Paul Buchanan at his funeral at Wapping Church on Monday afternoon.
Friends and colleagues said that the 51-year-old veteran of the EHPD had a puckish sense of humor, was passionate about physical fitness, music by The Beatles and taking his dog Frosty, a Bichon Frise, for walks.
But the word that came up time and again without fail was “family.”
And it was his family - his two sons, Jared and Benjamin - who spoke most eloquently about the legacy that Paul left behind.
Paul Buchanan died at Hartford Hospital on March 12 of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
But Benjamin said that people should not feel bad for him, but that he felt bad for others who were not fortunate enough to call Paul their father.
“I think of a man with a work ethic so strong, that in 24 years of work, he was never late,” said Benjamin, noting this despite one time his father had a flat tire on the way to police headquarters. Benjamin said that Paul managed to change the flat and make it on time, covered in grease.
But there was much more.
“I think of a devoted husband and a father who worked countless hours of overtime to try and ensure that his family had everything they needed,” Benjamin said. “But lastly, I think of a friend. A friend to anyone he met. A friend to those in need.”
Indeed, Benjamin Buchanan said that Paul helped take care of his sister’s family when his brother-in-law was dying of cancer. Paul then texted his brother-in-law’s daughter every night for two months after his brother-in-law died.
He told his niece “to be strong and that he loved her,” Benjamin said. “Family always came first and foremost in my father’s life. That’s something that I promise will be in mine.”
Benjamin recalled the night when he was in high school staying up to watch Saturday Night Live with Paul when Julia Louis-Dreyfus - Elaine of Seinfeld - hosted.
“My dad and I would go from laughing so hard, we were crying to having serious talks about life during the commercial breaks,” Benjamin Buchanan said. “I even remember a smile was permanently fixed on my face and I had to try to make it go away.”
A few days later, Benjamin showed his friends a sketch from that SNL. But it wasn’t as funny. The show, Benjamin said, wasn’t what made that night special.
“The fact that I spent that night with my father is why it felt so … enjoyable,” Benjamin said.
Jared Buchanan, a U.S. Marine, described Paul with three words: “Triple ‘H’ - heart, humbleness and hardworking.”
“He was Rocky. He was my mentor. He was my best friend. He was and he always will be my father.”
Jared recalled his father “pumping iron at the gym” and sitting on the couch watching his beloved Cowboys on Sunday Night Football “always blow a huge lead and lose,” as well as favorite shows Seinfeld and Saturday Night Live.
“The memories I have of my father are endless,” Jared said. “As horrible as this is, it’s so beautiful at the same time. I’ve seen family and friends through adversity put aside their differences and reconnect. Over the years I’ve finally been able to grasp your traits and I promise to do my best to emulate them to achieve my dreams. Thank you for making me a better person. I love you, dad. Semper fidelis.”
Det. Robert Zulick, an academy classmate of Paul Buchanan, said that Paul was no different as an officer than he was as a friend.
“Everything was about the family,” Zulick said, noting Buchanan’s wife Trish and his two sons.
Zulick described Paul Buchanan as an “incredible” officer with a terrific sense of humor.
Former EHPD officer Brian Fox wrote that when he was laid off the force, Paul offered to pay his bills until Fox got back on his feet.
But even then, Fox brought it back to Paul and his family.
“Paul knew what a blessing it was to have his family,” Fox wrote. “Paul was a great friend.”
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the East Hartford Police Benevolent Association, Inc., Box 280615, East Hartford, CT 06128 to establish a memorial fund in Paul's memory to help police officers in crisis.
(Correction: Buchanan's dog is named Frosty, not Rocky. South Windsor Patch regrets the error.)