Editor’s note: The following editorial was received from Jamie Hayes, a former Roanoke Rapids resident:

After a long work week, I returned to my home in Cincinnati, to find out that one of my favorite people, mentor and longtime Roanoke Rapids resident, Paul Heaton Sr., had recently passed away.

I first met Paul in the summer of 1992, when I answered a job advertisement for a membership sales director at a fitness club in eastern North Carolina, that was posted in my local newspaper, The Richmond Times Dispatch. I mailed my resume to the address listed and within a week I received a call from Paul and he invited me down for an interview with him and his older brother, Glenn. It was pretty clear to me from that first interview that this was a man that I wanted to work for.

That interview led to me pulling up stakes and working at the Roanoke Athletic Club for 3.5 years. During those 3.5 years, I was treated like family by both Paul, his lovely wife Carol, Glenn, their children, becoming involved with the Roanoke Rapids Chamber of Commerce and Jaycees, and meeting my wife of 25 plus years, Pamela. I learned that Paul and Carol had lived in Northern Virginia for 22 years when Paul was a co-founder of Asset Inc., before deciding to “semi-retire” and move to Roanoke Rapids in 1987.

Paul and his son, Paul Jr., opened Heaton’s True Family Hardware and the Roanoke Athletic Club, which were fixtures in the business community for many years. Paul and Carol treated all of their employees like family, and I was a beneficiary of this as I was able to visit them many times at their beautiful Lake Gaston home in Gasburg, Virginia, many times, including a couple of times after I had moved to South Carolina.

Paul was a true southern gentleman as he was friendly, had an engaging smile, had a nice word for everyone, and treated everyone he met with polite respect. I marveled at Paul’s endless energy as in addition to owning and running True Value and the RAC, Paul also worked for LORS Medical for many years, and with Paul Jr., opened Heaton Construction Inc. In addition to his busy work schedule, Paul also had the time to enjoy life with his singing and being involved with his churches in Gasburg, Littleton and Roanoke Rapids for many years. Paul was a true family man loving to spend time with his wife, Carol, and their children, Paul Jr., Gary, Alan and Sandra, his 10 grandchildren and 12 great-children. Paul was also a sports fan with his allegiance being to his alma mater of Auburn, and the team we shared allegiance with, The Washington Football team.

One funny story is that I invited Paul over to my place on a Sunday night in the fall of 1992 to watch the Washington (then) Redskins play the New York Giants. Well Washington lost, and Paul told me not to be offended, but we couldn’t watch Washington together anymore.

From Paul, I learned the harder you work, the better results you will achieve, treat your customers as number one, and do your homework. These messages have clear meaning to me in my own work career, but also having a successful family life, and pursuing my passion of coaching both of my sons in AAU and Select basketball for many years. I have lived in Cincinnati for 18 years now but have never forgotten Paul and Carol and the impact they have had on my life. I was fortunate enough to visit Paul and Carol a few times on traveling trips. The last was three years ago when I dropped by on a work trip unannounced to their house in the winter of 2019 and had a beautiful evening with Paul, Carol and Paul Jr. and catching up with all of their lives and activities.

I extend my deepest sorrow and sympathies to Carol, Paul Jr., Gary, Alan, Sandra and their families, as well as to the community of Roanoke Rapids. Paul, you will be remembered and missed — but I also want to thank you and congratulate you on a life well lived.